Shailene Woodley: What She Looks For In Scripts

Shailene Woodley in Endings, Beginnings. Courtesy of TIFF.

During a free talk on the OLG Dream Deck in Toronto, Endings, Beginnings actress Shailene Woodley discussed what she looked for in a screenplay.

Towards the end of the talk, I asked one of the final two questions.

Shailene Woodley attends the Endings, Beginnings premiere.
TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 08: Shailene Woodley attends “Endings, Beginnings” premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 08, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/WireImage)

What do you typically look for in characters when you’re reading a screenplay?

Shailene Woodley:  Nothing to be honest.  When I read a screenplay, it’s instinctual feeling that comes across me and I actually don’t notice my character until the second time I read a script, generally.  I read the story for the story.  If I feel moved reading it—sometimes, I don’t feel that moved but I still have butterflies—that’s when I know that it’s something that I have to try and fight to do.  I run my life on instinct.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s in this industry or if it’s not, I really believe you’re right for something or you’re not right for something, kind of like what you’re (referring  to director Drake Doremus) saying earlier.  The only way that you could be right for something is if you have that intrinsic passion and you have that deep kind of soul calling pulling to a specific role or to a specific project.  And yeah, that’s how I read them.

I honestly never know who my characters are until probably a quarter of the way through filming.  I don’t know who they are because I do think that I could spend and this is different—I was never a professionally trained actor so I think had I gone to school for it, I’d probably have a different narrative surrounding this idea.  But for me, I never know who they are until I’m with the director and I hear with his or her ideas and perspectives and directions are or I see other actors looking at me.  Even if there aren’t other actors and you’re working with a green screen, or with an ocean or the tree, whatever the surroundings are for that person, to me, that informs the decisions that you’re creating.  I honestly think acting is really fucking simple.  I think you just have to be a professional listener. Truly, you have to be a professional listener because if you professionally listen and you let yourself react based on—If I’m listening to this flower, the flower is going to make me feel something.  I don’t care if it’s an inanimate object or if it’s an animated person or 3D creature, everything is constantly giving and taking energy from one another and I think that’s my approach to acting.

Endings, Beginnings held its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.