Earlier this month, Shailene Woodley tweeted for the third time in five years with a simple, “FEELIN THE BERN!” in all capital letters, with a hashtag of “bernie2016.” Shailene Woodley has never been one to, let’s say, take the conventional route. So, to tweet support for a political candidate (and, since then, speak at Bernie Sanders rallies) – an action that will certainly be divisive for some people – the same month that she has a major motion picture opening is surprising only if you haven’t been paying attention to Shailene Woodley’s career.
That major motion picture is The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the third chapter (of four) in the successful franchise, based on the books by Veronica Roth, that sees Woodley return again as Tris, a young woman who, in this installment, leads a group beyond the wall that separates dystopian Chicago from the rest of the dystopian world.
Woodley has a tradition, and now a known reputation among entertainment writers, as “a hugger.” I spoke to Woodley over the phone, so there would be no hugs. (We had to settle for discussing hugs instead.) Woodley also explains what went into her decision to publicly support Bernie Sanders, a decision she didn’t take lightly.
A colleague pointed out yesterday, “no hugs over the phone.”
I can hug you through the interweb of this telephone line. I guess it’s not even an interweb. What is it anymore? How do telephones work nowadays? It’s so confusing.
But that’s the word on the street about you: hugs.
Yeah, it’s just better, you know? I don’t know, man, we’re just actors. We’re nothing special. We should hug. We should all hug each other. Maybe there’d be a little more love in the world.
Yeah, we’re all in this together.
I’ve always wondered, in these Divergent Series movies, why does anyone trust Miles Teller’s Peter? His betrayals seem to just keep happening.
I have no idea. That’s such a good question. We literally always ask each other that. And when I saw this movie – I saw it a few weeks ago with Theo [James] – and we both were just like, “How the fuck does Peter always show up at the most opportune and inopportune times?” To make the audience laugh, he’s the comedic relief, but he pulls it off really gracefully.
But you know a double cross is coming.
That’s a very good question, man. I don’t know why we trust him. I mean, I don’t trust him. Tris, I suppose, is a much nicer human.
Tris should try hugging more.
Yeah, maybe that’s the key.
I love that the villain of the first two films is named Jeanine.
Yeah, she’s not “Cruella.”
Jeanine sounds like someone who I might not like in real life.
Yeah, Veronica does a really good job at humanizing the characters. David, the antagonist in the movie, is a pretty common name.
Do you think you’d do another franchise after these movies are over? You’ve done other projects while these are happening, but I know these take a lot of your time.
Yeah, you know, never say never, but I can’t see myself signing another four-year contract anytime soon.
You’re leaving yourself an out with “never say never.”
Yeah, because you never know what’s going to come up, you know?
I’m under the impression you like doing diverse projects.
Yeah. I think I want to explore some other things for awhile. But, you know, the thing with this industry, especially being an actor, if you’re not creating your own projects, you’re at the mercy of what’s available and what content is currently being produced. So, for me, it’s about just waiting for a project that I’m passionate about. And I don’t want to put on restrictions of, “Oh, if it’s a franchise, I’ll say no, or if it’s a studio movie, I’ll say no, or if it’s an independent, I’ll say no.” I really want to be open to whatever opportunities present themselves.
I’m assuming if it’s a studio movie and you’d have to sign on for five of them, that’s not super appealing.
Yeah, it’s not super appealing at the moment.
You mentioned creating your own projects, is that appealing to you?
Yeah, you do have to do it yourself. I mean, it’s definitely something I’d love exploring. At the moment, I’m working on a project and doing this so I’m not spending too much time thinking about it. But, at the same time, it is something I can see being in my immediate horizon.
I suspect you’d make interesting things.
I hope I would. I’d like to make a movie I’d want to watch, so hopefully they’d be interesting.
You’re in Snowden.
Yeah, I did do that last year and it will come out later this year. It was a really fun project to be a part of. It was really exciting to be part of a movie that’s so relevant and so dependent on the realities of what’s unfolding next within the storyline of his personal life.
Did you meet Lindsay Mills?
Yeah, Lindsay’s around. I got to meet her when I was in Washington, D.C.
What was that like?
She’s an incredible woman. She’s a photographer. She has so much going on in her personal life. She travels the world and she’s an acrobat and a yoga teacher. As a student of life, I was really inspired by her visions in the world.
And now you’ve done an Oliver Stone movie.
It was such a wild experience.
He’s been in this industry for so long and to learn from the experiences he’s had and hear the stories he had to share… He definitely knows some stuff. And he’s been around the block, man! He lived through the ‘70s and ‘80s – that era of Hollywood that’s just so different than today. The stories, then versus now, comparing them are so wild.
Since your Twitter account was created in 2011, you had tweeted twice until you tweeted, “Feelin’ the Bern” recently.
[Laughs.] Yeah, there’s a time and a place to use the platform. You know, man?
FEELIN THE BERN! #bernie2016
— Shailene Woodley (@shailenewoodley) March 2, 2016
Was that out of the blue, or did a lot of thought go into that?
It was definitely a calculated decision. I didn’t just impulsively decide to send out that message. I believe in him, man! I believe in Bernie Sanders! I think he would make a really wicked president. And he’d change this country for the good and propose some progressive standards upon the way we’re modernly looking at the world and about climate change, and equality, and rights amongst women, and the LBGTQ community. I hope to use that platform to encourage young people to go vote. Because regardless of what happens and who wins, we are so lucky for having the opportunity to vote, being American. And I think it’s important we remember that and take advantage of that.
Were you hesitant to support a candidate publicly? You’re picking a side, but you also want people to see your movies.
I don’t think about that. I, of course, hope people will go see these movies regardless of what my personal political views are. And at the same time, I’ve got a million people on Twitter, so I figured I’d use that platform for something I believe in. Twitter is a means to speak your truth, right? That was my truth.
Anytime I tweet anything, I always ask myself, “will this be worth the hassle?” Sometimes it’s not, sometimes it is.
Exactly! Sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes it’s not. But this is something I feel so strongly about, so I figured it was worth it.
I have a theory and I thought about this while watching Allegiant: Donald Trump is ruining dystopian future movies.
Wait, that’s your theory?
When I’m watching Jeff Daniels’ David, I’m thinking, “This guy is up to no good, but he still seems better than Trump.”
[Laughs.] Dude, I just watched John Oliver’s video on Trump. Have you seen it?
Yeah, I agree. I guess you’re right. I had never thought about it that way.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.