We had the honor of chatting with Shailene Woodley, the star of The Secret Life Of The American Teenager about the new season of the hit series. Here’s what she had to say:
What made you originally want to be a part of the show?
S. Woodley: Well, I feel like the show has original concepts, just based on the fact that it does tend to explore unique things that other TV shows don’t. It tends to explore the concept of divorce, first boyfriends, first kisses, and a pregnant teenager in a Christian family. There are so many different aspects of life that it definitely dives into and I thought that was really interesting to be able to portray that to kind of America’s teenagers and teenagers all over the world and saying you’re not alone; this happens to pretty much everyone. Everyone goes through trials and tribulations as a teenager and this is how we’re dealing with it.
What’s been your most memorable moment you’ve had from filming the show?
S. Woodley: I guess any scene with Molly; any crying scene with Molly – let me rephrase that. We just connect and every time we have a crying scene, whether it says to cry in the script or not we both start bawling. It’s just one of those weird… things you have with other people… But, we definitely have it and that’s really neat. And just, I guess, behind the scenes with the cast. Everyone is so great and everyone gets along so well. We’re all so close and we have kinds of things like parties and dinners for each other for our birthdays and we all kind of play guitar, so we’re always jamming in the trailers. It’s a fun environment.
Have you noticed anything different filming season two than when you went into the first season?
S. Woodley: Season two, we’ve already like established our characters and we already kind of know who we are, so season two is more focusing on the context versus the characters because we’ve already gotten a sense of how Amy would react or how Grace would react. It’s more establishing the storyline, I feel like, versus establishing the character.
I just was wondering kind of as the first season went along, was there anything that happened with your character just on the show that kind of surprised you I guess as it came up because you maybe would have – I don’t know if I should say would have done differently, but just kind of surprised you how it worked out?
S. Woodley: As far as the first season goes?
S. Woodley: Let’s see, it definitely surprised me the way Amy handled it. She kept it definitely more to herself, she was very introverted about it. It also surprised me how she kind of did this 360 and began gaining confidence all of a sudden and realized that she is going to have a baby and that she has to keep in mind that she has to be strong about it and can’t let people push her. So, I was surprised kind of by that personality charge, that difference in the beginning of the season where she was definitely an introverted shy girl, didn’t want to talk to anybody about it, freaking out, keeping it to herself, to this semi-confident girl who stands up to Ricky and tells him what she believes in, and stands up to her parents and stands up to her sister.
So, I thought it was kind of an awesome thing to see this character do that because I know as a teenager and all my friends that it’s hard to change your confidence level, especially when you have all these things going on like a first boyfriend, and obviously me and my friends have never been pregnant, but I can only imagine. I thought it was amazing how she did that change, but I didn’t see it coming.
If there’s someone out who has maybe seen an ad for the show coming up with the second season, what would you say to them to draw them in? I mean the show has kind of been established and the characters are pretty established, but why should someone start watching it now at season two if they haven’t seen it before?
S. Woodley: Again, I feel like everything that the show goes through and everything that it explores happens in everyday life, in normal teenagers’ lives – divorce, the whole Christian family, the girl is debating whether she has to follow her faith or not, boyfriends and cheating, and everything that the show goes through happens. So, I would definitely tell someone if you’re a teenager and you’re lost or you want comedic release or you need help with something or you’re going through something and you feel alone, check out our show because I feel like it definitely defines each situation and gives it a solution. Whether or not it’s the solution that the viewer might choose for themselves in their own lives, who knows, but it’s one aspect of how to solve a problem emotionally and keep up the faith.
Can you just set up for us a little bit more the plot of season two and is it picking up exactly where season one left off or if it’s skipping a little bit of time, and maybe if there’s any new exciting characters coming onto the show, etc.
S. Woodley: All right. So, it does skip a little bit of time between the first season and the second season. There’s definitely a wedding that’s being talked about between Amy and Ben. There are lots of different things happening with all of the families. Of course, Amy’s parents are still going through a rocky time and they’re trying to figure out if the dad is going to stay or move out or what’s going on with that. Amy is trying to decide if she needs to get a job or if she shouldn’t get a job to pay for insurance and stuff for the baby. She’s going to find out if it’s a boy or a girl. She’s going to find out if she’s going to give it up to adoption or if she’s going to keep the baby. There’s like a gay couple involved who might adopt the baby, but might not depending on what Amy feels is right for the baby at the time.
There are lots of different things. Apart from my character, Grace’s character kind of goes through; she’s debating on whether she really likes Jack or really likes Ricky or if she really likes being single. Ben is going through still again the first love and how he should handle that and how much he should be in control of her life or not. So, there are tons of different things that are going to happen, lots of new drama.
How much do you identify personally with your character? For instance, if you were pregnant at such a young age in real life do you think you would react the same way?
S. Woodley: I feel like my initial reaction would be the same, like “Oh, my God. What did I just do? How did this happen?” But I’m more of an extroverted, outgoing, where Amy keeps things to herself and is more of a quiet introvert. So, I definitely would have told my best friend right away and I would have told my best friend right away if I had even had sex and indeed if I got pregnant. I’d tell my parents right away. I’d totally be just as scared and emotionally unstable as Amy was, but I think I’d go a bit differently as far as the way I spoke to people and who I told. I’d definitely sit down and plan out what I want to do with the baby. I think we’d be a little bit different just because our personalities are so different.
Have you been able to learn anything from all the cast members on the show, such as Molly Ringwald and John Schneider?
S. Woodley: Definitely. I don’t get to work with John that often, but Molly I get to work with almost daily and she’s such an inspiring woman. I mean just to see how much she got done as a child and even in her like early 20s, 30s -everything, and she’s still so humble and down to earth and she has a family. I love just to see people like that who have accomplished a lot but still remain normal and sane and down to earth. She’s taught me so many things. Just in the beginning I was confused about interviews and she helped me with those and then it turned into personal issues I talk to her about and she’d help me with things like that. She’s an amazing woman.
I was reading a blog on the official site and most of the responses were positive, but I wanted to know what you thought of the people who were in there basically saying this show promotes teenage pregnancy and it glorifies it and it probably shouldn’t be on TV.
S. Woodley: I personally don’t read the blogs, but I feel like people who say that the show glorifies it, I don’t believe that. I don’t feel like this show glorifies pregnancy, because if you see my character she’s obviously not jumping up and down, she’s in the bathroom crying 24/7. Definitely there is an emotional spin on everything. Her best friend… they kind of grow apart because her best friend’s mom won’t let her come over and she has a boyfriend and she has the dad of the baby she can’t stand, and she has a mom that she’s dealing with and her dad that’s she’s dealing with, so I don’t feel like it glorifies it at all. If anything, I think it makes it seem like a very hard and difficult situation to go through, especially as a teenager.
In season two, for instance, also you’ll see the other aspect of having a baby, like if she should get a job or not. The baby is actually going to cost money and she’s actually going to have to take care of it herself. So, I don’t feel like it glorifies it. I feel like it handles it in a very mature and real life way as far as if a teenager got pregnant and how she would react.
Do you think getting married at 15 is a good idea?
S. Woodley: Personally, I don’t think I would ever get married at 15. I don’t know if I’d ever even tell a guy I loved him at 15. But it works for Amy and Ben and they’re in a different situation. Who knows; if I was pregnant and I was 15, if I was Amy, if I was the kind of person she is and had the same personality as her, if it was the right time and the right day, who knows? It all depends on situations and it’s all relative.
You’d probably have to have a lot of family support too.
S. Woodley: Definitely.
Actually, I was also speaking to Jason Priestley a couple of months ago and he mentioned that he was directing a few more episodes. I just wanted to know what he’s like to work with.
S. Woodley: He’s great. He’s hysterical – oh, my God. Every time he’s onsite, he never says, “cut,” so it just keeps rolling and rolling and rolling and you get like great outtakes because we start bursting into laughter. He’s a great guy. He’s super funny and really nice and he gives great tips and tells great stories. He just exudes this positive vibe into the studio and it’s really great. Everybody responds to it.
How have your real life high school experiences compared with the show?
S. Woodley: Well, let’s see. Let me go back to freshman year. As a freshman, me and my friends; every teenager on the show is talking about sex and talking about picking their friends and all of that, picking their boyfriends, being the next level or whatever, as a freshman, me and my friends definitely talked about that. We talked about more mature things than we did like in middle school.
Actually, my parents got divorced when I was a freshman. So, I can definitely relate to Amy as far as what she’s going through and how hard that is to balance. The first year in high school is just totally different than middle school and your first boyfriend while having your parents divorce and your family life kind of crumble. So, I can definitely relate to a lot of things on the show and there is always the Christian girl at our school who preached God… and who preached happiness and purity and everything. Then there is always the girl who is kind of thought of as the provocative one, who people were usually intimidated by, but really didn’t know that she was a nice, smart girl. I think it is right on cue with all sort of storylines as far as how they relate to normal high schools.
Yeah, it sure sounds like it. Earlier, you were talking about how you have a lot of crying scenes. I was wondering; how do you physically manage all of that?
S. Woodley: Honestly, I don’t know. It comes. I guess it’s in the writing. If you feel the words and you feel the emotion that’s evoked in the script as far as if you put yourself in the place that Amy’s going through, it’s really simple. I feel like to just cry. Then again, I don’t know how I do cry. It just kind of comes. â€¦crying so much or if it just comes naturally. But, Molly definitely helps. You just look into her eyes and damn, like we’re both in tears.
Wow; isn’t that exhausting?
S. Woodley: I think it’s fun. Those are the fun scenes for me because you go through real emotions.
Understandably. You were talking earlier about how you’re very different than your character Amy Juergens. If you had to pick a character on the show that you’re most like, who would it be?
S. Woodley: I guess a little bit of every character. I’m definitely not…. like provocative person who walks around wearing bras at school or whatever, but I’m definitely not Amy who is quiet and introverted and I’m not Grace who goes around preaching the gospel and everything. So, I’m a little bit of everyone, I feel like, kind of combined together.
Do you have any input on the clothes that you wear on the show?
S. Woodley: Yes. Wardrobe – we get along great. They’re awesome. It’s a trio of them and they’re so funny and so awesome. We were talking; I told Sherry – she’s like, “What’s your style personally?” I was like, I like a lot of different things. She was like, “Oh, that’s perfect. I happen to have a lot of vintage clothes in the closet or whatever.” So, we talk about what’s right for the character. So, she kind of takes it in moderation, puts a little bit of my flair in there and a little bit of her flair and a little bit of Amy’s flair. It’s fun. We always have a great time.
If you were a fan watching the show, who would you want Amy to end up with?
S. Woodley: That’s a hard question. Personal feeling, I don’t like boys who are super, super, super clingy and Ben is very, very, very clingy. But then again, I don’t like guys like Ricky who think they’re super cool and have a big ego and just know they’re like the hot guy or whatever. So, that would be a tough call. I guess I’d have to go with Ben just because he does love her so much, but he’s a little too clingy for my taste.
You said that the show is – I think you said several months later. Can you give us an idea of the time frame and kind of where we are with the birth of the baby? Does it happen fairly early in the season, or kind of late at the end?
S. Woodley: The birth of the baby doesn’t happen early, early. It definitely waits a while because she’s definitely a lot further along than she was at the end of season one, but in the beginning of season two she’s not quite there yet. So, there’s definitely still a while.
Were there any parts that were challenging or maybe hard for you in what you’ve filmed so far to actually do?
S. Woodley: In what I’ve filmed so far, I guess the most challenging thing especially as we started filming later episodes was before with the belly and the whole pregnancy thing, it didn’t really affect me physically, but once the belly started getting bigger and stuff, I had to do lots of research on what contractions felt like and how you’re supposed to walk when you have a baby in your belly. So, I asked a lot of questions to mothers who had previously been pregnant. I did research online as to what contractions felt like. So, I guess the hardest thing was resembling and reenacting what an actual pregnant woman would feel when I’ve never had any situation even close to what she would feel. So, that was the hardest part – putting my mind and my body physically in the body of a pregnant person.
I’m sure you had a break from filming. I was wondering if you were just taking some time for yourself, or if you were working on some different projects.
S. Woodley: Are you talking about the hiatus in August or the one that’s coming up in January?
I guess the last break that you had.
S. Woodley: Okay. The last break that I had, it was still during summer so I was actually able to go – my family, we’re big like campers and stuff so we camped once and we went on a house boating trip… with all of our friends. Relaxing to me is doing something, but not something that requires a lot of brainwork, so like painting or being with friends or making something; I don’t know, just something that’s inexpensive, cheap and easy to do.
Has your life changed a lot? Are you able to do normal teen things like go to movies, go to the mall?
S. Woodley: Oh, definitely. I still actually only go back on hiatus in February. I’m going to go back to my high school and graduate because I’m a junior. It’s definitely different. When you go to a grocery store and you go anywhere there are people staring or pointing or whispering, and every now and then you have a brave girl come up and be like, “Are you the girl from Secret Life?” It’s neat to have that happen, but it’s also a little bit awkward because I feel like I should have a conversation with them, like, “Hello, I’m Shai. What’s your name?” versus just being like, “Oh, yes. Here’s my autograph. Bye.” I feel like I need to make it more personal. It happens.
As far as just my friends and where I can go, I still go all the places that I normally went. I might have to wear a hat or something, but other than that it’s no different because my friends, they treat me the same. They known I’m goofy, spontaneous, weird Shai and they accept me for that. They don’t put any pressure on me to just seem like if I’m different or… my personality has changed.
Very cool. Also, you were honored on being Entertainment Weekly’s on the Breakout Star list with like Robert Pattinson and Demi Lovato. Were you surprised? I mean does that feel like the moment when like, “I’ve made it”?
S. Woodley: Yes, I was definitely shocked. I mean Entertainment Weekly there were only ten people in that. It was – I can’t even put it into words. Acting has always been like a hobby and a passion of mine. I’ve never really thought of it as a career. I still want to go to college and get a degree in interior design and psychology, but just to have that was almost like – I can’t even explain it. It was just such a great relief, like someone else is noticing.
Where are you looking at for college?
S. Woodley: It’s been my dream since I was like – I don’t know – real little to go somewhere on the East Coast, preferably like NYU or Boston; somewhere where it’s cold and where you actually get seasons.
Interview By: Emma Loggins
– The Secret Life Of The American Teenager Official Site