Why do readers identify with the idea of young people being moulded by society as presented in Divergent?
SW: I don’t know that society is forcing us, but we do live in a fear-based society. We live in a society from the day that we’re born that tells us we’re not enough: we’re not good enough, we’re not attractive enough, we’re not tall enough, we’re not skinny enough, we’re not this enough, we’re not that enough, not smart enough. For teenage girls, they see magazines constantly and billboards –and not just girls, boys as well- and so instead of living in a society that feeds us positivity and feeds us worthiness, it feeds us destruction and it feeds us insecurity. And so I think it is part of a subconscious movement of strong females coming to power not because they’re the sexiest thing. [Gestures towards poster for Divergent] this thing is totally photoshopped. Seeing a woman come to power because they own their strength and they know their inner core, and they know their inner worth, is an incredibly important message to be sending. I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of that group.
Obviously none of us are perfect, I’m not perfect. Everyone in Hollywood, their shit stinks the same way. I did a movie last year where I worked with a bunch of people who had cancer, and they were all very young people, and that taught me, more than anything in my life, that we never know what’s coming. And there’s no way to justify life, and there’s no way to make it seem fair or not fair, but there is a way to enjoy every single moment. Part of that is releasing the fear that we’re born with, and starting to own ourselves. Part of that is our responsibility of knowing it’s none of our business what other people think of us. So in Hollywood if somebody thinks I haven’t done something perfect, it’s none of my business what they think. I know that I get to wake up every morning and be the best version of myself, for myself, not for anyone else. It just doesn’t matter, if you’re perfect or not perfect, because nature’s not perfect, there is no example of perfect.
Can you talk a bit about the pressure to decide your path in life early on, as reflected in Divergent?
SW: One of the coolest things to me about the movie is the name, Divergent. What does diverging really mean? It means leaving mediocrity and leaving the main stream, and forging your own path. I say now more than ever -because it’s the only generation I know, I’m sure it’s been like this forever- it takes a lot of courage and a lot of bravery to walk your own path and sail your own sails, but it’s so much more gratifying than walking a path that’s already been tread. There’s no excitement, there’s nothing new to discover. I think it’s really important for teenagers to make that really hard, scary decision to walk their own path. It won’t be satisfying over night, but in the long run it will be because you’ll have created a life for yourself based on what your intuition wants, not what other people want for you.
How did you decide to make acting your full-time job?
SW: When I was really young I thought I was going to be a teacher and audition on the weekends, and then I was like “okay maybe I’ll be an interior designer so I can be freelance and audition all the time.” Now it’s something that you can’t really call a hobby anymore. I mean it is, but it takes up all of my time really, so it’s definitely a career. But it’s still a passion project; the day it becomes boring or not fun anymore I’m not going to do it, because to me that’s what it’s about. It’s art: sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially when you’re in rooms like this having conversations constantly, but it is, it’s art.