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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Q+A: Shailene Woodley talks about ‘Feeling the Bern’

The Badger Herald speaks with ‘Divergent’ star in exclusive interview
Katie Cooney

Shailene Woodley had a big weekend in Madison, giving a speech at Sen. Bernie Sander’s, D-Vermont, event at the Kohl Center and canvassing with students.

The Badger Herald spoke with the actress about feeling “The Bern,” politics in “Divergent” versus those in the U.S. and her future plans.

The following interview was edited for style and clarity.


Badger Herald: What’s it been like being on the trail for Sanders?

Shailene Woodley: It’s been incredibly inspiring. I have never been political before, I didn’t know much about politics. I went to a public high school, and didn’t really receive a great education. I didn’t go to college, and so I didn’t exactly understand what a super delegate was compared to a normal delegate.

Being on the trail has not only expanded my awareness politically and my education when it comes to that particular department, but the level of participation that I have come across in terms of watching communities band together and feel like their voices are heard, feel like they have something to fight for, something that they believe in, has singlehandedly been the most moving experience of my life.

I would not trade the last month and a half, with being on the road, doing things for the Bernie campaign, for anything in the world. I’ve learned what it means to be an American and I’ve learned what it means to be proud of where I’m from.

We have someone listening for the first time I can’t, in my life, ever recall. Being on this trail and meeting people around the country who feel the same way as woken up this newfound activism of pretty much never sleeping. Even when I do sleep, I dream about Bernie Sanders and his campaign taking over my life.

BH: How did you become first involved with this campaign? 

SW: I’m friends with Susan Sarandon and she’s been on the road. I was emailing with her one day and said, “Hey, I have some free time coming up. Are there any projects coming up that I can lend a hand to?” I was reaching out to a few different friends of mine who are activists, and she responded with, “If you think it’s time, I think it’s time that you get out on the trail and you use this platform that you have to encourage people.” And I thought about it and was like yeah, why am I not saying anything?

And I realized it was because I have this deep insecurity, and still completely do. Rosario Dawson is so informed politically and so well-versed in that world. I realized I was really intimidated not by, “What’s going happen to my career if I come out as a political surrogate for Bernie Sanders?” but more so, “What’s going to happen to my self-confidence if I come out and say something that’s inaccurate? Or, what if I use a word in the wrong place?” I didn’t know a lot.

And it was a big decision for me to say, “Oh you know what, there’s no reason why I should know these things that I don’t know.” I didn’t grow up with a very political family, I didn’t go to a school that gave me the benefits of learning about politics in a really esteemed way. There’s no reason why I should have known it, but now is the time to learn it and to start. I chose not to let my insecurity challenge me, but I did use that insecurity to educate myself and start educating those around me. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I can say there’s been a few moments where I’ve had conversations before and they’ll bring up someone who I’ve never heard of before and I’m taking notes and Googling while we’re in the midst of a conversation.

That’s another reason that I want to fight for Bernie — there’s no reason why we should even have to go through these hoops and these hurdles. Right now, what’s going in Wisconsin with the voter ID situation, it’s so tragic. It’s ridiculous. The day you turn 18, if you’re an American citizen, you should automatically be registered, you should automatically have the right to vote. That is democracy. Right now, our electoral system is not run that way, which is mind-boggling.

We talk about racial discrimination, we talk about discrimination against women, we talk about religious discrimination. Where is the conversation around voter discrimination? Yeah, you can relate that to race and to gender and to sexuality and to financial history, but where’s the conversation where you have these kids who are trying to educate themselves to become something in the world and help the world and empower the world. And here they are, in their own country, regardless of what they look like or their background, and they’re not able to vote.

BH: What’s it like working with a presidential candidate compared to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars? 

SW: Well to be fair, I haven’t really worked with Bernie — I’ve worked for Bernie and for the campaign. In terms of how it translates to Hollywood, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some really great people who are down-to-earth. I’ve heard some stories about other people who take their lives and their personas a little too seriously. But, to be honest, I haven’t come across that. I think it’s that saying, “You attract what you are, what you put out and what you receive.” I think I’m someone who has chosen to not put up a persona or put up a wall. I’m an actor, I’m an artist and I’m me.

Rosario Dawson always calls herself an “activist.” Let’s say you’re an actor and you step out and you do something political or you say you’re an activist, all of a sudden there’s a lot of judgment towards you. Well, I’ve been an activist since the day I was born and doing things for the world whether it was small, like “Recycle” and throwing pep rallies in middle school to encourage people to recycle, before I was an actor. I’ve been fortunate enough to attract those types of actors in my life, like Zoe Kravitz, who’s an African American minority. It’s harder for her to get roles, and it’s very true. She’s an African American and it is harder for her to get roles, which is super fucked up. And it’s starting to change, but she’s part of that revolution because she’s not taking the role of the best friend in every movie. She’s saying, “I have something to offer regardless of what I look like and what my racial profile is.”

I don’t know if I can answer that question in a juicy way because I’m pretty well-surrounded by people who are on this campaign trail as well.

BH: A lot of times people want to keep arts and politics separate, but how do you see the arts as being important in our country moving forward?

SW: The arts is politics. I mean, art is revolution, right? Art is expression, individuality, freedom — art is ultimately really above everything else, is freedom. It’s your way of expressing yourself on a micro-level of individuality and really honing in on your unique ability access your empathy, your compassion, your emotions, your feelings, your inner workings in a way that no one else can access. Art is a way for others to see the lens in which you view the world.

Politically speaking, politics is all opinion, right? It’s all about what our opinions are. Everything could be interpreted in a certain way, I don’t think that art is limited to politics. I do think that politics is limited to art in a way because, again, art is just freedom of expression. Think about the Constitution. That’s a piece of art if you’re really going deep into the existential world of art, it’s a piece of literature, it’s a piece of writing, it’s the literal translation of one’s mind and one’s dream into a physical reality that is on paper, which is the Constitution, which is what our country is founded on. That’s art.

BH: Do you see any comparisons between the world of “Divergent” to America’s political climate today?

SW: I think it’s easy to build bridges between any movie to what’s happening right now. I think every movie has some sort of reliability to our modern day culture.

The thing about “Divergent” is one of the main reasons I was signed on to do this movie in the first place is because they’re so political. The first movie deals with mass genocide, it deals with mass brainwashing. It deals with a tyrannical leader who creates and imposes this genocide among the community in order to take over. And I’m not saying that that’s necessarily happening in America right now, but it has happened. Look at the genocide of Native Americans, look at the genocides that are occurring today in the world.

In “Insurgent,” our characters were refugees. Our characters had to flee their home base to seek shelter. Look at what is happening Syria right now, look at how we’re not opening our arms as much as we could be as Americans to these Syrian refugees.

There are parallels, but I wouldn’t say it’s a means for direct translation.

BH: Actors in the past have become politicians themselves. Is that something you could see for yourself in the future?

SW: Probably not, I don’t think politics is my mission in this life … There’s so many things that we can dig our hands into, I don’t see myself holing myself into one thing, but never say never.

BH: Do you have any plans in the near future to express your political beliefs through acting? Do you see yourself doing any projects that are explicitly political in a way that maybe “Divergent” isn’t? 

SW: I did do a movie last year that I think was incredibly political and that will come out in September I believe, about Edward Snowden. So that was pretty fun.

But I do want to say that being on this trail and meeting the hundreds of passionate, unrelenting, beautiful, peaceful, loving, compassionate, empathetic volunteers who are so quickly devoting themselves to this campaign and seeing the grassroots efforts that have been [present] in all the communities around America to support Bernie and seeing the actual campaign itself — I would love to make a movie about this movement.

Because regardless of whether Bernie wins or not, he has educated America about things that on a mainstream level, most people did not know about before.

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