'Divergent's Shailene Woodley Talks Relationship With Jennifer Lawrence, Similarities to Character

The producers of Divergent had only seen actress Shailene Woodley in the 2011 George Clooney flick, The Descendants, when they decided the young actress had to star in their YA novel-to-big-screen trilogy. And while the producers were eager to cast the star, Woodley was hesitant about taking on a role that would ultimately change the course of her life forever. Just take a look at Twilight's Kristen Stewart, the original young adult starlet. Previously, Woodley had only been attached to indie flicks (The Spectacular Now) and a cable television show (The Secret Life of the American Teenager).

"I never thought Hollywood is the life I wanna do, I thought acting was the life I wanna do. It's something I enjoy doing. I'm not a painter, but I can express myself visually that allows myself to artistically create," Woodley said.

But with only a few days to consider the offer a lifetime, she enlisted the advice of a young woman in a similar circumstance, that is, Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence.

"I still have yet to meet Jen, which is funny because I talk about her so much right now," Woodley said at the Los Angeles press day for the film. "I sent her an email. I was just curious, she had gone from doing indie films to doing Hunger Games... a giant film obvivously, and I wondered if it had changed her life in positive ways, if she was happy with her decision, what that looked like. I had zero reference to what a studio film would look like. So I asked her and she said: 'Don't do anything stupid, don't do drugs, don't make a sex tape, and don't go to Whole Foods the day the movie opens. But other than that you'll be fine,'" Woodley recalled. Adding, "She said there can be hard things that come with making this decision, but the beauty and positivity will transcend any other situations."

Not unlike Lawrence, Woodley lives her private life out of the Hollywood spotlight. The cover of tabloid magazines and gossip headlines rarely, if ever, contain her name, and as she puts it, she tries to live her life with "dignity," similar to her character in the film.

"A lot of Tris [her Divergent character] has resonated with me. I feel like when I was her age I was going through a struggle. I was raised by two psychologist parents who are the most beautiful, selfless people I've ever met, so compassion and empathy were two things that as a child were engrained into my system... such a lovely gift," she said. "But as a teenager, my struggle was: How do I balance being empathetic and being compassionate towards my peers, and also living my life for myself, not basing my decisions on those around me, and really live a life where I receive my happiness from my own experience, rather than from people pleasing or what not. And Tris goes through this as well, she was raised in a society where she had to be selfless, and yet she joins this other faction which is all about being selfish, and she has to find the balance between that. I feel like I went through something similar. As well as being a very strong and powerful woman. I feel very strong and I live my life with a lot of integrity based on what I want for my life."

The actor joked: "As far as being different, Tris has really long hair, it's blonde... and I don't anymore, so I guess that's a difference," she said, then added: "that was an awful joke."

Divergent, based on the best selling novels by Veronica Roth, hits theatres Friday, March 21.