Interview: Shailene Woodley from “The Descendants”
Interview: Shailene Woodley from “The Descendants”

The Massie Twins recently had an opportunity to sit down with Shailene Woodley – the star of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” – now appearing alongside George Clooney in the Alexander Payne film “The Descendants.”

The Massie Twins: How cool was it for you to be able to use the “F” word with George Clooney?

Shailene Woodley: It was super fun! The reason I was so attracted to this script is because it’s raw and messy and not glamorized. We get to say fun words. Arguing with George is really great because he’s such a good arguer. I had to be on top of my game so I could top him. It was a constant battle. He’s such an amazing human being. He’s so professional, he’s always on set, on time, and he’s available for you whether he’s on camera or off camera. It’s really rare when you’re dealing with an actor of his stature. He’s a good actor because he’s a good actor, not because the editor makes him look good. He’s phenomenal. He’s so normal and down to earth.

MT: In both The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The Descendants you get to play a young woman who is a little bit rebellious and gets into trouble. Are you anything like that in real life?

SW: I don’t know. I think every teenager goes through their angsty period whether you want to admit it or not. I was about 14 when I thought I knew everything and thought my parents were the most ridiculous people on the planet and that my parents couldn’t tell me something I didn’t know. But it was short lived. I was never the kid who snuck out at night. My parents always trusted me and so I got to do a lot of things. I would tell my mom, “You give me more freedom than any of my friends, but you micromanage my freedom.” She would say, “You can go to that party, but you need to text me every five minutes.” I had an amazing childhood.

MT: How do you approach becoming your character?

SW: I’m definitely not one of those actors who think about my character, spending a lot of time immersing myself in her world… unless it’s a period peace. For me it’s all about being present in the scene and being truthful. With this script, there wasn’t a lot of acting to be done – it was more about being yourself.

MT: What was your relationship like with Amara Miller on the set? Did you become a big sister to her?

SW: Yeah. Amara, Nick and I became really close really quick. Amara is who she is in the film. That is who she is in real life – she had never been on a film set before. She was a friend of a friend of Alexander’s. Acting was not in her radar and it just sort of manifested. It was fun showing her the ropes and dragging her away from craft services. It was fun. Nick and I were close too. It was fun being around someone my age who is also an outdoors person; we’d always be hiking or kayaking, or climbing through waterfalls – things we probably contractually shouldn’t have been doing.

MT: Did you read the book on which The Descendants is based?

SW: Yes. I read the book (by Kaui Hart Hemmings) after I got the job. It’s such a good book. That writer is so phenomenal. A lot of the best lines in the film were straight adaptions from the book. The scene where King says that the most powerful men in Hawaii look like stuntmen or bums was from the book. Everything Scottie says is from the book. She’s a brilliant writer. For me, since the book was 250 pages and the script was 100 pages, it fills in the blanks and got me some back history without having to make it up.

MT: How long was the shoot, and what was the mood on set? Were people continually bursting into laughter?

SW: We shot for 11 weeks. Hawaii was so great – I’m sad to be away. When Nick Krause did his scenes, I didn’t think they were funny when we were filming them; but watching them now, I think he’s a genius. When you’re in the moment, you’re invested in the realism, but watching it later – hilarious! The one scene that I did laugh at while filming was when Reina (Celia Kenney) came to visit at the hospital. That girl was so dry at like 12 years old, I could not stop laughing. She came in with her super tight Juicy Couture outfit with little purse – people don’t usually laugh at her scene during the screenings, but I think it’s one of the funniest scenes.

MT: Do you own a Felicity: An American Girl doll?

SW: I do! It was a wrap gift! She’s still in her box. That was a fun part of my life. I got to learn to ride horses and work with Marcia Gay Harden.

MT: Do you have George Clooney on speed dial?

SW: No – not on speed dial (laughs). He’s awesome about if you were to reach out to him, he’d get back to you.

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