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‘Divergent Series’ tough on Shailene Woodley

From left, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q and Miles Teller in a scene from “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.”
From left, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q and Miles Teller in a scene from “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.” Lionsgate

Shailene Woodley will think long and hard before she signs another four-year contract. The last one she put her name to had the young California native starring in four movies based on the books by Veronica Roth.

She’s proud of the work she’s done, but making action films can be draining. The third of four films, “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” had the actress going through another long shoot that was both physically and mentally challenging as she returned to the role of Tris. This was a tough shooting schedule with all of the fight sequences and the climbing up and down a massive wall but not nearly as demanding as her work in the first movie.

“I was in every scene in the first movie,” Woodley says. “Because of the storyline in this one, it was nice to have a little breathing room.”

In “Allegiant,” Tris leads a group outside the walls that separated the residents of Chicago from the post-Apocalyptic world. Tris knows there’s more outside the walls than death and destruction, and she’s determined to find it. She goes outside of Chicago because she feels like it’s part of her destiny.

Also returning are Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Zoe Kravitz, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer and Theo James who plays Four, the love interest for Tris.

One of the additional challenges in “Allegiant” for the young actress was the addition of more visual effects.

“In the first film, all of the sets were built. This time it was 50% with the actors and 50% added in post-production,” Woodley says. “It was hard to imagine what it was going to look like. All you can do is trust that it will all work out.

“You have to depend on the director to let you know you are having the right reaction.”

That meant Woodley and director Robert Schwentke spent extra time talking about how a scene would look after the special effects team finished. The additions ranged from a massive invisible force field to flying machines.

Woodley has been acting since she was 8, but she found it difficult to get in her mind what a scene would eventually be. More than once during the filming, Woodley asked “What movie are we making?”

The film they made is the continuing story of the growth of her character. Woodley loves that Tris has gone from being self-empowerd in the first movie to a person who is guilt ridden after being betrayed by her brother, Caleb.

All of the “Divergent” movies have dealt with issues such as family, individuality, hope, loss, courage and finding your own place in the world. Woodley sees one more theme added with “Allegiant.”

“It’s about how many times we don’t recognize how good we have it when it is right in front of us,” Woodley says.

After all this time working on the film series, the one thing Woodley has learned about herself is that nothing really has changed. The key is that Woodley is passionate about acting. She’s not passionate about the kind of things that can lure a person into the darkness such as wild parties.

“It sounds cliche to say, but my life hasn’t really changed at all from these movies,” Woodley says. “I know three and a half months a year I’ll be filming, and two and a half weeks I’ll be doing press.

“Apart from that, there’s a few more people who stop me in the street. But the way I live my life hasn’t changed.”

One reason Woodley doesn’t get stopped as much as other actors is that she looks completely different from the young woman on the movie screen. The light color of Tris’ hair has been replaced by an almost ebony hue. Her fingernails have the same dark color.

But, even with the changes, there are legions of fans for the book series. When one of those fans finally tracks her down, they tend to ask the same question.

“They always want to know what it is like to kiss Theo,” Woodley says with a smile.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

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