Five Minutes With: Shailene Woodley

Cast member Shailene Woodley poses at the premiere of the HBO television series "Big Little Lies" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast member Shailene Woodley poses at the premiere of the HBO television series "Big Little Lies" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Shailene Woodley, star of the upcoming Big Little Lies, talks with MiNDFOOD about activism, motherhood and surviving the "Trump days".

WHO SHE PLAYS: Jane Chapman, who Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) take her under their wing as the new girl in town.

MATERNAL STATUS: Single mum of Ziggy Chapman whose father is unknown.

AGENDA: Has relocated and trying to move on from a mysterious past.

REAL LIFE: Known for her roles in the Divergent franchise, as well as The Fault in Our Stars, and more recently, Snowden, she is also an activist against the North Dakota Oil Pipeline (for which she was arrested), campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and is a women’s rights and environmental activist.

What was it like to work with this fabulous cast?

It was dynamic since day one with this project, which was unexpected and incredibly special to have people like Nicole and Reese and Zoe and Laura Dern, all from different generations, but treating each other with the same respect and treating each other with a certain degree or reverence for who we individually are within our own generations. And of course learning from each other. There’s so much that Reese and Nicole are able to shed light upon for me, and then there were so many things that Zoe and I were able to exemplify for them because of the generation and where Zoe and I are growing up in this industry with social media and cell phones and a degree of privacy. And then hearing stories about what their experience was in terms of when they were our age and in that world and it was a blessing for sure.

There are women in front and behind the camera on this production. As a well respected actress, how aware are you for a need for more of that?

I think it’s absolutely something that we need to be conscious of and we need to fight for. And I think this is a moment in Hollywood because of events that happened last year and because of where we are at politically. Inevitably, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth, whether that is addressing inner generational roles, inner racial roles, inner male/female, and so if we wanted to man those projects, then we have to be a part of creating them.

Were you aware of this type of competition and the fights between the parents in a schoolyard setting?

No, but my mom happens to be a parent coach, which is funny, so I know a lot of stories about parents and how they interact with one another. And there’s a phenomenon that happened. It started with my generation and bleeds into the next generation where parents are afraid of their children. They are afraid of their four year old, because their four year old says they don’t want to go to bed, the mom has no control over them and doesn’t know what to do. And it’s that fear of over-controlling, being dominant and wanting to be a friend and not wanting to helicopter parent but inevitably or intrinsically becoming a helicopter parent because of that. I think that enters the psychology of some modern day parents. And it’s a trope that is easy to fall into, and so I absolutely, even though I didn’t witness it when I was a kid, have witnessed it via my mom, these types of situations like you see at this Monterey Elementary School in Little Big Lies where the parents are far more invested in these things than the kids are. Adults have a developed ego and kids don’t yet. Kids are quick to forgive and quick to love again and parents aren’t.

Your son in the show is being attacked for being a bully and you as his mother, are forced to see a therapist to find out if he has those tendencies. What are your feelings about bullies?

I think the thing with bullies is that they themselves are bullied at home and they don’t feel safe, especially with young kids. A kid doesn’t come out of the womb going, “I am going to bully someone.” A kid comes out of the womb going, “I want someone to love me.” And when they are not loved at home, they go to school and bully. And narcissism is a tricky thing that I don’t want to get into because they all have different relationships to narcissism. But when it comes to bullying, I think it’s just important to remember that with kids often times it stems from their own lack of feeling.

How do you balance being an actress and a celebrity as well as being an activist?

To me, there is no difference because I am a human above all things. And as a human being on this planet, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t engage in these certain opportunities that are being given to us right now. That being said, art is equally as important to activism and equally as important to humanity as standing on a front line because art is what radically shifts consciousness. And front line is what physically shifts consciousness. And so you marry those together and you have a pretty good thing going on. So I am trying to find the balance there.

How are you surviving these Trump days?

I am surviving, because so many of us are doing it together. Seriously, that is how I am surviving. If people weren’t showing up to LAX, if people weren’t showing up in the streets and if these marches weren’t going on and if you didn’t have people like Rachel Maddow and if you didn’t have people littered across our country whether they are famous or not, if they are in a big town or not, liberal/conservative saying we need to start having conversations to fix things, I would be pretty scared. I don’t feel scared. I feel pretty hopeful, because there is so much opportunity to actually make a difference. It only lies in our hands, that’s it. Trump can’t do anything if he doesn’t have the money to do it and we provide that money. So we have got to start putting our money where our mouth is and recognise that. We can talk about these issues all day and still shop at and we still go to Nordstroms, we are still supporting the Trump presidency. And until we take those matters into our hands, which people are finally starting to do, we won’t see a difference.

You were arrested for protesting against the Dakota Pipeline. What was that experience like?

It was tough. It’s scary to be arrested. Being arrested is not glamorous and it’s not Orange is the New Black. It’s cold and it’s scary and you realise that you could be in there forever and that millions of people are stuck in cells like that forever and don’t get a chance to get out because they don’t have a name that people recognise. And our prison system is something that is overlooked when we talk about activism often times but it’s at the root of many of these other systems that suppress people.

How did you grow up and where did your activism spark?

I grew up in LA and I grew up spending a lot of times outdoors and I think that is what sparked it for me, realising that if we didn’t have the wilderness, we would not be able to survive, because even on a cellular level it provides us with oxygen. And that is my lame hippie answer, but that is the truth. Without trees, we could not survive, so that is what sparked everything for me.


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