10 Push-Ups with Shailene Woodley

CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

LOS ANGELES — Remember what I told you about Shailene Woodley being easy to love (as differentiated from “falling in love with”)?

That was last year after I interviewed her at Four Seasons for Divergent, the first installment based upon the best-selling trilogy by 26-year-old Veronica Roth, which is a big hit among the young-adult readers nurtured on novels of the same genre like the Hunger Games franchise which was made into a movie also by Lionsgate.

As soon as I entered the function room transformed into a taping room for the TV interview, Shailene stood up from her high chair and…surprise, surprise!...hugged me before asking me to do a fist bump. Cool! No other star, whether local or foreign, has ever shown that instant closeness to me, with another hug to cap the interview, and that made me (not fall with) but love Shailene at first embrace.

Did Shailene do that to endear herself to the international media guys invited to the junket because she was not yet that well-known at the time, even if she had harvested rave reviews and Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globes for her portrayal of George Clooney’s troubled teenage daughter in The Descendants?



Not really, as I was to find out last week during our second interview also at Four Seasons for Insurgent (to be followed maybe next year by the trilogy’s last book, Allegiant). Divergent grossed nearly $300M worldwide and it did to Shailene (and co-stars Theo James, featured in The STAR yesterday; and Ansel Elgort, also in The STAR on Tuesday) what the Hunger Games trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) did to Jennifer Lawrence — yes, turned them into overnight stars, big stars. Insurgent is predicted to cement Shailene’s reputation as a bankable star.

Close on the heels of Divergent, Shailene and Elgort, cast as siblings in the movie, starred as cancer-stricken young lovers in The Fault in Our Stars, a moving drama that made the whole world shed tears and kept the box-office ringing to the tune of millions! Unknowns who become well-knowns also become instantly unreachable, don’t they? Guess again.

Sunday morning last week, Shailene arrived at the 14th floor of Four Seasons not from the elevator but from a side door, breaking into a wide smile and waving at the media guys seated in line along one side of the corridor waiting to interview her.

“Hi, everybody!” Shailene said and disappeared into the suite-turned-taping-room. Back then, she greeted the TV crew the same way, saying, “How’s everybody? I’m Shailene Woodley!”

When my turn came, a flash of recognition crossed Shailene’s face. “How are you?” she said. “Come and join us,” referring to a male assistant beside her. Although dressed as if for a party and wearing heels, Shailene (and her assistant) dropped to the floor and…did I have a choice?...so did I in my Paul Cabral suit. And what did we do on the floor? Yes, doing push-ups, with Shailene herself counting from 1 to 10. No sweat! Perfect warm-up for a seven-minute interview that, like the first time, started and ended with a fist bump.

No wonder she’s, to use a cliché, as fit as a fiddle.

“Luckily,” she said, “I didn’t have to do too much physical preparation for this new movie.” Well, as you can see…

As Divergent followers know, the trilogy revolves around a dystopian version of Chicago where people are categorized according to their guiding principles as: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (for honesty), Erudite (for knowledge), Amity (for friendship) and Dauntless (for bravery). Those who possess more than those characteristics are called Divergent. Shailene as Beatrice “Tris” Prior is a Divergent.

Now in Insurgent (released nationwide in the Philippines again by Pioneer Films starting on Wednesday, March 18), Tris searches for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago. She and Tobias “Four” Eaton (played by Theo), the Dauntless instructor/expert fighter who falls in love with her, are fugitives hunted by Jeanine (Kate Winslet reprising the role), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. For what “crime”? No, sir, I won’t spoil the fun and the suspense, it’s for you to find out.

“The story is much more in Tris’ head as she deals with traumatic events,” related Shailene. “I really responded to that. It seemed very psychologically suspenseful. Coming back into this world again, I assumed it would be easy because we knew the characters and the story so well. But the storyline has shifted and the relationship between Tris and Four is evolving like it does when one member of the partnership goes through something traumatic.”

For somebody who is free-spirited and a natural hugger (“She gives everybody a hug,” confirmed Shailene’s friend. “She’s warm and so grounded.”), Shailene is the perfect choice for the Tris character. Her parents divorced when she was 15 and she has remained close to both (and her younger brother who is 21; she’s 23). Interested in medicinal plants, she would have been an herbalist (her grandmother is a practitioner in alternative medicine) if she didn’t become an actress (at age five, she started performing in acting classes). Like Tris the Divergent, Shailene doesn’t easily give up, languishing in small roles before the big break (the ABC family drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager) beckoned when she was 16.

Asked how the success of Divergent has changed her life, Shailene replied, “Amazingly enough, my life hasn’t changed much at all. I’m busier and the rest of my life is the same. Oh yes, one of the beautiful things about doing a big movie like (the Divergent franchise) is that you enjoy the luxury of helping create smaller films that otherwise would be able to be financed in some ways.”

How is the switch from being brother (with Elgort) and sister in Divergent to being lovers in The Fault in Our Stars back to being brother and sister again in Insurgent?

“That’s the beauty of being an actor,” she said. “You get to play varied roles. And the beauty about working with Ansel is that we have a wonderful rapport with each other and natural compatibility. There’s a feeling of safety between each other.”

Has playing Tris become like second skin to her?

“How am I like her and different from her? Well, I’m not really imposing like she is and I’m not as daring as she is. But like Tris, I am brave in the sense that we both face challenges head-on.”

After the interview, Shailene asked, “Did you feel okay after the push-ups?”

Oh yes, I did. Perhaps we

could do 10 or more

push-ups next time?

Give me a fist bump!!!!










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