THE NEW YORK TIMES – Once again, the women of “Big Little Lies” will be pitted against one another, this time at the Emmy Awards. But please don’t call it a rivalry, said Shailene Woodley, who was nominated for supporting actress in a limited series alongside Laura Dern. (Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are up for lead actress.)
“We all played very different roles, had very different story lines, and there is no competition,” she said in a phone call from Fiji, where she is filming the survival movie “Adrift.” “A win for any of us is a win for all of us.”
In the HBO series, Ms. Woodley plays Jane, a single mother who, after enrolling her son, Ziggy, in a progressive elementary school in idyllic Monterey, Calif., finds herself an outcast among certain parents by virtue of her economic standing — chief among them, Ms. Dern’s character, Renata, a C.E.O. and power mom who seems to have it all.
To have Ms. Dern, who played her mother in “The Fault in Our Stars,” hiss and snarl as her nemesis added hilarity to the proceedings. “We had become quite close, and when I received the script she called me and said, ‘If you don’t do this show, we’re going to have a problem,’” Ms. Woodley recalled. “It’s so much fun to pretend to be angry at someone that you love and adore.” These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Tell us about your character Jane.
When we meet her in “Big Little Lies,” we meet a girl who’s trying to live in an adult world, who’s coping with the extreme suppression of anger and sadness while also trying to deliver a life full of possibility and positivity and wonder to her young child. And I think that’s why she was able to bond with so many of the women from Monterey, because although they didn’t have similar personalities, Jane saw that they, too, were coping with some sort of deep grief despite the facade of white fences.
Those women were played by real powerhouses. What was that like?
It was wonderful. Reese, Nicole and Laura would discuss with Zoë [Kravitz] and me how times have changed since they were teenage actors, and reflect on the progress that has been made in Hollywood. I still think there’s a long way to go when it comes to depicting females in films. But being on a set where we had the camaraderie and compassion and support of so many women — and not just the actors, but our crew and producers — was an unparalleled experience.
You’ve spoken about the need for empathy toward the show’s male characters, even the abusive husband played by Alexander Skarsgard.
A bully generally is not bullying just to bully. They’re bullying out of pain and internal conflict and brokenness. Obviously there is no complacency on my end for any act of violence. But it’s worth looking at why we have so many rapes and acts of sexual violence. Many young men and women feel out of control or that they don’t have support for the traumas they’re experiencing, and I think paying attention to that and providing support would create a world where we have less acts of violence.
Female friendships are important to you. And yet in the past you’ve said that you’re not a feminist.
I would today consider myself a feminist. If females start working through the false narrative of jealousy and insecurity fed through a patriarchal society, then not only will we have more women feeling confident in themselves and supportive of one another, but we will start introducing a type of matriarchy, which is what this world needs. We need more softness and more silence and more pause through the chaos.
You’re an environmental activist. Have you considered running for political office?
There was a point last year when I was working for Bernie Sanders where I thought, “Huh, maybe I’ll run for Congress in a couple years.” And you know what? I’m not going to rule it out. Who knows? Life is big, and I’m young.
Do you have a favorite Emmy nominee this year?
I’m rooting for “Feud,” and I’m all on the Susan Sarandon train, just because she’s brilliant and brought so much to that show.