Shailene Woodley returns as Tris in ‘Insurgent’
Although “Insurgent” is the second portion of a trilogy, and the characters in it are continuing the story that began in “Divergent,” part two really is a different kind of animal in many ways. There’s much more action, some of it owing to the film’s two main protagonists, Tris and Four (Shailene Woodley and Theo James), being hunted by the main antagonist, Jeanine (Kate Winslet). And there are some wrenching plot turns, the most obvious one being that the relationship between those two protagonists, who made such a picture-perfect couple in the first film is, let’s say, facing some difficulties. Woodley, assured and well-spoken, shared some thoughts last week in Los Angeles about the challenges of playing Tris, of how young viewers might identify with what’s going on in the story, and how she dealt with a different director taking over the reins.
Q: It’s been a year since you played Tris in “Divergent.” Was it tough getting back into the role?
A: It was much more difficult than I had anticipated because I didn’t take into account that I, myself, had grown for a year. I figured that going into her would be simple because I would just go back into that mindset. But my personal mindset had progressed a year in evolution. So I had to go back to who I was a year prior in order to get back in Tris’ mind.
Q: There was some action in the first film, but there’s a lot more this time. Was any specific part really memorable for you to do?
A: There’s one really rad sequence when Tris is chasing the house. I think one day we had four or five stunt doubles there, a bunch of women with short hair, wearing the same exact outfit, walking around. But when the house is tilting, we were on wires and sliding down, and there’s one moment where the house is tilted at almost a 90-degree angle, and that felt pretty bad-ass. I knew if I didn’t grab the pole, I wasn’t gonna get hurt, but I would be dangling in the air, and have a crazy bad wedgie. So that was fun.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the relationship between Tris and Four?
A: One of the reasons I originally fell in love with “Divergent” so deeply was because of the relationship between them. It was grounded in truth and respect and authenticity, not on surface-level physical attraction or infatuation. Tris and Four equally saw each other as individuals that they were inspired by, intrigued by, curious about. There was a sense of mystique about each of them. I loved that in “Insurgent” their relationship is rocky. It’s not 100 percent. Now it’s not every time they see each other they feel safe and protected. They put up walls against one another, and that happens in partnerships. Everything has an ebb and a flow. I thought that was one of the smartest things [novelist] Veronica Roth could have gifted to the young adult world, in a way. I think it’s great to have a platform for not only young adults but for everyone to recognize that relationships can be based in truth and be vulnerable, and at the same time, when your walls go up, to recognize that you’re keeping somebody at arm’s length because of your own defenses, not because of anything that they’re doing. Because defense mechanisms are just an ability to protect our own inner vulnerabilities.
Q: Neil Burger directed the first film and was set to direct this one but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts. How did it go with Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “RED”) stepping in for him?
A: When we first found out that Neil wasn’t going to be directing the second movie, it was a little strange to wrap around how somebody would fill those shoes, simply because Neil created the visual world of “Divergent.” He took Veronica’s book and then added all the visual aspects to it, and breathed life into it. But Robert immediately made us feel comfortable. He doesn’t have an ego, he’s very open to collaboration, and he’s into hearing what you have to say, and taking your opinions into account. That was such a blessing. He showed up every day with a smile on his face and a “let’s do this” attitude. He was committed to the work and the creative aspects of it, but he was also committed to having fun on the job, which I think people sometimes forget to do. So to have a creative leader-captain of a ship bring that sense of spontaneity and passion while also retaining the integrity and dedication to the hard work that needed to be done was really wonderful.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.