“When you work with people who are better than you, or who you admire, you show up differently to set” – Shailene Woodley
After gaining significant praise for her role in the 2011 Oscar-winning film The Descendants, actress Shailene Woodley has appeared in a number of popular films like The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars and the HBO drama Big Little Lies. Her most recent film, the romantic drama Endings, Beginnings, was meant for a May theatrical release but was released digitally because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To promote the film, Woodley was interviewed by her co-star, Sebastian Stan, for Interview magazine. Woodley spoke about how she decides on her projects and what she has learned from the amazing actresses that she has worked with.
Woodley explains that her decisions on taking on a project ultimately come down to her gut feeling on a script. She says, “If I’m reading a story and I have butterflies in my stomach, I’m in. If I don’t, I’m not. There have been a few times when incredible opportunities have come around and I have not had that gut reaction, and everyone around me has said, ‘You have to do this movie, because it’s this director or it’s this actor.’ But I haven’t had that gut reaction so I passed.”
Woodley has received the highest acclaim in her career for her performance in Big Little Lies, for which she received nominations for an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. More importantly to Woodley, the series gave her the opportunity to work with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman and learn from their experience. She explains:
“Working with Meryl [Streep] was absolutely fascinating, because she has somehow mastered the art of performance, of knowing every single tick about her character, while also marrying that with complete and utter presence, which is a skill I don’t have yet. Nicole [Kidman] is very similar. They know inside and out who their characters are. That must come from experience. When you work with people who are better than you, or who you admire, you show up differently to set. And I have to say, I just f—ing love working with professionals. Whether you’re someone who’s been on one movie set or you’re Meryl Steep, that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is your sense of adoration and passion for the craft of acting. I get frustrated when I work with people who don’t seem to appreciate the gift that we’re given as actors to be able to express ourselves in this way. I just finished working with Jodie Foster and there is no one on this planet like her.”