Cover Story continued

The Ascendant

Shailene Woodley

Speaking by phone from Texas on a day set aside for media interviews, Shailene Woodley, 20, who plays Alexandra, Matt King’s 17-year-old daughter, sounds as fresh and spontaneous as if this is her first call of the day (it’s not). “Aloha,” she says.


Aloha.

You pronounced it correctly!

Why wouldn’t I?

Your number, it wasn’t a Hawaii area code. So you’re really talking to me from Hawaii!

You seem to really like this place.

I’m obsessed with Hawaii. I think it’s my only home. My body is from LA, but my heart is from Hawaii. Being there was the spiritual awakening of my young adult years.

How long were you here?

I arrived three months prior to filming so we could feel out the culture of Hawaii. It’s so different from where I grew up. The pace is very special. As a Hawaiian, what did you think of the film? I love hearing what people from the Islands say.

Thank you for asking! We want to know what you think.

That you don’t often see [Hawaii] movies that are not paradise-driven. It’s one of the first times Honolulu has ever been shown–that it’s nice to see the city–the poverty, the richness and everything in between. Alex [Payne] was very particular about being very authentic.

What sort of research did you do?

I went to Punahou for a few days to sense out what the kids are like there, talked to a lot of kids. Went to a theatre class, the lily pond, heard about the history. Went to Kahala Mall. Slowly observed.

Any parent of a teenager would recognize the glare your character gave her dad. You also brought the audience to tears.

It was fun to play this sort of angsty teenager role; the things she’d say were messy and real. Raw and human.

How did you shape your character?

For me, my approach to acting is not over-analysis, but discovery, of coming to the moment and letting the truth take over, being really pure in the moment. Professionally, I listen to what the other actors are saying and let words and actions unfold from the script. Alex is a brilliant writer. There was zero improv going on. We were true to the script because it was so truthful.