Shailene Woodley earned universal accolades for her role as George Clooney's eldest daughter in The Descendants, in which Woodley is burdened with the unpleasant task of telling Clooney that her mother was cheating on him before an accident left her in a coma. Alexander Payne directed and co-wrote the movie that recently won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD.
We caught up with 20-year-old Woodley for a quick chat as she continues to win praise for her contribution to The Descendants and for her TV work, including the pregnant teen she plays on ABC Family's The Secret Life of an American Teenager. Woodley might play younger characters on-screen, but she exudes a maturity and level of awareness that makes her one to watch in the years to come.
Movies.com: Do you and Alexandra, your character in The Descendants, have a lot in common?
Shailene Woodley: An actor is just a professional listener who is able to show different sides of themselves through different characters. I'm nothing like Alexandra as far as our surface similarities, but we both are very independent women and opinionated human beings. Even though I had a very different childhood and way of handling myself than Alexandra, I still could relate to her passion and fire inside. Committing myself to the words and listening to what the other actors had to say fuels all the emotion instead of me thinking about who this person was and how I related.
Movies.com: How competitive was the casting process for your role in The Descendants?
Woodley: I only auditioned once, but if I thought about all the competition I would probably go insane. I was really passionate about the project from day one. I read the script and it was incredibly raw and full of so many normal, acceptable emotions that most screenplays don't dare go near. I decided I wanted to be a part of it, if at all possible.
Movies.com: Did your Descendants daddy, George Clooney, get paternal with you on set?
Woodley: He kind of became a big brother-slash-mentor. I learn so much from him every time I am around him. He's so incredibly philanthropic—he's in Africa right now trying to rebuild a country. I'm just amazed at what he does on a daily basis for the world.
Movies.com: What is something that happened on the set of The Descendants that you will never forget?
Woodley: Oh God, there are so many memories. One of my favorites is that everyone—George, the crew—went to this Thai restaurant on Oahu on the day we wrapped. At the top of the Thai restaurant was this karaoke room, and all 150 of us sang for about four hours. It was one of the best nights of my life—just this awesome, celebratory notion that we did it, we're done, let's have a good time!
Movies.com: You have received so many awards and nominations for your TV and movie work. We count at least 24 nominations and nine wins for Best Supporting Actress for The Descendants alone. How seriously do you take the whole awards process?
Woodley: My goal is to have an amazing time expressing myself on set. The goal is to do movies that fuel your soul and ignite that artistic fire and passion within you. The awards, the recognition, the magazines are all very flattering, but you can't take any of it too seriously. I'm not an actor so I can go to the Oscars or do an interview or get free stuff, which I think is dumb. I'm an actor because I simply love the art of creation.