Shailene Woodley Shares How She Handles Improvisational Love Scenes

At the young age of 28, Shailene Woodley has already been in over 20 movies. But, her most recent film Endings, Beginnings, presented a brand new challenge for the actress. In the film, Woodley plays the role of Daphne, a young Angelino who meets two best friends at a party who help her to unlock forgotten pieces of herself.

Shailene Woodley movies
Shailene Woodley | Stefania D’Alessandro/Getty Images

Also starring Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan, and stand out from the Captain America’s movies, Sebastian Stan, Endings, Beginnings features a romantic love triangle. Having been in an open relationship before, Woodley was able to bring her very open perspective to the character of Daphne. Imagining herself having intense romantic feelings for more than one person at a time wasn’t hard for the Big Little Lies star to envision. However, what made things a bit more complex was that most of Endings, Beginnings is entirely improved.

Shailene Woodley improvs in her latest movie

Of course, there have been movies that have been mostly improvised in the past. Movies like Drinking Buddies, which was only guided by a loose plot, have been gaining more traction in recent years. However, this film was Woodley’s first movie that was mostly improvised. So just how does the Divergent actress cope with not having a script to follow when building a character? According to Woodley, all her characters exist inside of her. They simply represent a dimension that she’s yet to explore.

“For me, when I’m building a character, I’m only experiencing different shades and colors of who I personally am. Daphne is one color of me that I got to explore, but I was speaking as Shailene, from a place within my own heart. I think she’s a little bit of my alter ego,” Woodley shared about her approach to movies in a recent interview with the New York Times.

How Woodley managed the love scenes in ‘Endings, Beginnings’

But how does Woodley manage to connect with her fellow co-stars? A great deal of acting is not only about an actor’s relationship with their character, but also about the relationship that their character has to others. According to Woodley, it all boils down to trust.

This is especially true when shooting love scenes. Because love scenes in movies require a great deal of intimacy, trust is essential to making them safe and believable. Woodley shared that for Endings, Beginnings, the love scenes were shot closer to the end of the film and thus there was more time to develop more trust with her co-stars.

The ‘Divergent’ actress talks intimacy, trust, and boundaries

“Luckily, our intimate scenes came toward the end of the shoot, so there was a great level of trust with the actors. In one scene, Sebastian picked me up and took me across the room as the camera followed us, and it was a completely different sex scene than what ended up in the movie. But we had to explore all different parts of these two people’s physical nature to really get down to the essence of what worked for this film thematically,” Woodley shared about the process of shooting a love scene with improvisation.

Woodley also shared that she doesn’t like to use an intimacy coach in her movies. Intimacy coaches are usually hired on movies that require love scenes to make the actors feel safe comfortable and make the scene more believable. While Woodley sees the value in them, she is confident about her ability to set her boundaries and make sure they are adhered to.

Why Woodley doesn’t feel comfortable with intimacy coaches

“For me, intimacy coaches make me uncomfortable because it feels like another set of eyes that I don’t need. But I have no problem stopping production when I’m uncomfortable, and I don’t think that’s the case for a lot of people, so I think it’s wonderful that there’s a lifeline that people can lean on to know they’ll be protected. That being said, the best thing a director could do is ask an actor right off the bat: ‘What are you comfortable with? What are your boundaries?'” Woodley shared about what the best directors do on set of movies.

It’s great that Woodley is able to advocate for herself in various situations. We imagine love scenes are challenging even with a script to follow, so doing them without one presents its own set of challenges. Fortunately, it seems that Woodley has learned to successfully navigate them in a myriad of circumstances.