December 28th, 2009 by thetvchick
I absolutely adore ABC Family’s original programming. Secret Life of the American Teenager may have started off as a guilty pleasure show for me (I’m not sure I’m in the right demographic), but it has quickly become a favorite of mine. It tackles a lot of tough issues — teenage pregnancy, sex, relationships, death…you name it, which many other shows shy away from. It has a great cast and interesting story lines and I am so excited for its mid-season premiere. I recently had the chance to chat with Shailene Woodley, who plays Amy Jeurgens about what’s coming up, which relationship she is rooting for (Ben vs. Ricky) and fan reaction to the show.
Is there anything you can share with us about what to expect when the show returns?
Yes, there’s a lot of new things. Another maybe pregnancy, weddings; there’s a lot of confusion as far as in Ben and Amy’s relationship; there’s a lot of up and downs with Ricky’s character and trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. A lot of the characters are going through that stage in high school where you’re starting to become a person and in that recognition of who you are there’s a lot of confusion and you get scared. And I think a lot of teenagers react in not the best ways and I think the whole next season kind of discovers that and goes into depth of that confusing state of adolescence.
You play a very serious character with a lot of responsibilities. What has that been like for you?
Well the first season, I was just like “please let her smile,” because every day I’d read the script and be like “Oh, I have to cry again tomorrow.” But it’s really cool being able to play a teen with all this turmoil in her life because she is developing a maternal [instinct] in such a quick way for a fifteen year old.
Do you have a favorite part of filming the show so far?
Yeah, I guess for some scenes there’s just two or three characters who work at the same time, and then sometimes like once every month, we’ll get like all the fifteen people who work at the same time, and it’s awesome. We all jam, we all play guitar together and hang out. The girls go into a trailer together and blast Spice Girls, and just sing for hours, we have fun.
How have you been able to relate to your character? Obviously, you’re not with-child.
I guess, just putting all the pressure that I had in high school and then adding pregnancy. That’s kind of the only way I could do it, and even that was almost impossible. I don’t mind playing pregnant, because I don’t plan to be for a very long time.
Amy went through a personality change after the baby was born. What do you think the writers were trying to do there, was that like postpartum depression or just that she was kind of overwhelmed?
I think that all teenage girls kind of go through that mean stage where the world revolves around them. I think it’s very hormonal and especially after having a child I think that your hormones are all out of whack and it causes a lot of mood swings. So I think they were just trying to portray that life isn’t perfect after you have baby, you are going to go through exactly like what you said, post dramatic depression. You’re going to go through a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily go through if you hadn’t had a child at 15.
Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of both the character and you playing Amy?
Honestly, my life is kind of the same. I’m a lot busier and, yes, there are a couple of people who will stop on the street, but people are generally very respectful and very nice. I don’t put myself out there. I barely wear any makeup. I just feel like I’ve kind of taken on the responsibility of being a professional. It’s always awkward for me the whole fan situation, because I don’t know them and they don’t know me, so I want to engage in conversation, but then that’s always awkward too. It’s a very interesting dynamic, but other than that life has just been the same. I’ve stayed with the same friends and have the most amazing family ever, so I’ve been very lucky.
My question is, since you portray a teen that’s been through a pregnancy, have you met anybody and they’ve kind of given you their thoughts or feelings about the show?
Honestly, I haven’t met as many teenage parents as I have met parents who are now like in their 40s or 30s even, but were pregnant as teenagers; and pretty much their feedback is just like, “Wow, the show brings me back to my days of confusion and torment and putting myself down for doing such a thing as a teenager; and I think it’s really great how you kind of opened this up into current day 2009′s teenager world and showed them the consequences of having fun per se without being careful about it.”
If you could have anybody guest star or direct or just help in the show in anyway, who would you like to see be involved in the future?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. Obviously, who wouldn’t say Meryl Streep? I don’t know, I think there’s a lot of amazingly talented people out there and I think there’s a lot of actors who haven’t even really done a lot, who‘ve only maybe done a couple of things, but who are truly incredibly talented. Anyone who just brings forth commitment, I think that’s the most important thing. I’m always happy to meet new people and see their amazing talent.
The Secret Life requires a lot of traumatic acting, I was wondering what do you and the cast do for fun especially on the tough days of filming?
When all the cast works we bring guitars and – a lot of the guys play - and we’ll all kind of like sit around and make up stupid songs about each other, or someone will bring their computer and we’ll go on YouTube for hours and just laugh hysterically. We all get along really well. It’s a very comfortable set. It’s really neat to be able to have a physical scene and then afterwards go out and be comfortable around the person enough to share your own personal stories and stuff. So it’s kind of like high school all over again without the drama.
How does the cast continue to kind of foster and build that chemistry so that it does translate on the screen?
When the show first started we all kind of just got put there together. It’s not like any of us got to choose who we got to work with or who we were going to spend the rest like two years of our lives and hopefully more with … So everyone bonded immediately, it was kind of that thing where we didn’t really have a choice, so we bonded, and it’s been great. A lot of us are very different people, but there’s never conflicts; sometimes there’s differences in opinions, but we’re all so down to earth about and we all just accept each other as who we are and we learn from each other. Some of us are into more alternative music per se and then others are more into the whole hip-hop rap scene and that’s very basic, but instead of arguing about differences, we kind of engage each other in the differences and we get to learn amazing things. I’m not a dancer, but Francia Raisa is the most amazing dancer I’ve ever seen. So she has been able to kind of help me with that kind of whole aspect of life and I’ve been able to help her with more like crafty kind of that whole kind of life. I don’t know, it’s kind of difficult to explain, but we’re all very open with each and we never judge each other.
What would you like to see from your character, Amy going forward?
Obviously I’d like to see her grow up a little bit.
She’s kind of been on the border the last couple of episodes over the last season of making a change; and definitely in the newer season it definitely explores Amy’s choice to grow up and to mature in a very optimistic positive way versus living in her pessimistic past. I like it when she gets to smile and I think it’s really cool to be able to explore a teenage girls point of view on life. I was there, it’s a very hard process to go through as a child, and so I just can’t wait to be able to portray that growing up in Amy.
Do you have a relationship that you’re rooting for with Ben or Ricky or maybe someone else that we haven’t seen yet?
In the new season, there’s another guy that comes into the picture. I think that Ben and Amy aren’t a good match, just for the fact that Ben has a lot of growing up to do and Any has a lot of growing up to do. And it always seemed to me that their relationship kind of stemmed from, he said he loves me, so I love him too, versus actually going into depth about why they love each other. I think they kind of realize that in the last season. I think that they have the potential to be an amazing couple, but I think at this point they need to figure out who they are themselves before they can be happy with each other. I think Amy and Ricky have a lot in common, but I think that will always kind of be the teaser. Ricky is just not responsible enough to be a boyfriend in my opinion yet.
Obviously you play Amy, but do you have a character that you relate the most to, maybe what you were like in high school?
I kind of would say I’m a little bit every character. I was kind of like Grace in the fact that I wasn’t preppy, but I was like, let’s do pep rallies, I was in leadership. I had to get to school today, I was the dork that tried to convince everyone that school spirit was the only way to go. And then I was like Amy. I was also an observer, as much as I liked being in front of the whole school, doing the whole pep rally thing, I also liked to be in the background watching it happen at the same time. I guess I’m just kind of a mixture of every character. I was never as provocative as Adrian was.
Few of us are, right?
How has playing Amy changed your view on like teenage relationships and teen pregnancy?
As far as teenager relationships go, Amy and Ben’s relationship like I said is very immature. Not immature in a childish way, but immature in a not super grown up way. And I think a lot of high school relationships are like that. I’ve had a couple of those where you’re in the moment and you think that he could be the one and everything’s fine and then two weeks later he does something stupid and you’re like, okay, next. It just kind of showed me that high school is really like a game board almost. You’re kind of going through each different aspect of your life and you’re testing the waters. And I think it’s a really fun, exciting time, but I also think you have to be careful, and that kind of showed me, when you’re in the moment, it could seem one way, but when you look at the big picture from afar, it’s completely different. So I guess to just open your eyes and look outside the box. And then as far as teenage pregnancy, I don’t think it’s a controversial thing. I had two kids from my senior class. One of them is a dad now, one of them is a mom now, in two different situations, and it’s kind of bizarre to know that I‘ve grown up with these people. I’ve gone to elementary school, middle school, and high school with them, and now they’re parents at my age. It’s bazaar to think that it actually happens in real life and it’s not just a show. So when that happened to those kids at my school, it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that this is a real life situation, and not only am I just like playing a character, I’m playing thousands of characters that have to go through this emotional turmoil every single day of their lives, for the rest of their lives. I think just be strong and talk to people, communicate. The more you communicate, the more love you’re going accept into your body, and I think that is the only way to kind of cope with situations like that.
What TV shows that are on right now that you can’t live without, besides Secret Life of course?
Honestly, I don’t watch a lot of TV, and the little TV that I do watch is what I’m never supposed to watch, because I like Top Chef and Project Runway. I like the reality shows that you’re not supposed to watch, but I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and Project Runway. And then as far as actual script written television, there’s a couple shows that I kind of bounce back and forth each time. I’m kind of obsessed with Glee, I must say. I watch every episode of Glee, I love it.
If you had to choose in real life who would you pick to end up with Ricky or Ben?
That’s difficult. I definitely don’t think I would want to be with Ben, just for the fact of I think Ben is kind of a little bit too pushy of a boyfriend, but I also wouldn’t want to be with Ricky because he’s so irresponsible. I guess I would choose Ricky, because there’s just something intriguing to me about his character, something where you know he has a good heart and you know one day his good heart will show, but right now he’s nowhere near that. It’s a very tricky question.
How do you see your relationship with Ricky evolving in this season?
Amy and Ricky have a very interesting relationship just in the event that Amy knows he is not a good boyfriend, but she knows that he is an amazing father. Ricky knows that Amy is not the girl he wants to be with, but he knows that she is the mother of his baby. So they’re always going to have that secret connection of family. They’re their own family now. Each episode, Ricky I think is the only person Amy can one hundred percent feel like she can tell him anything and know that a rumor won’t get started. She knows her secrets are safe with him and vice versa. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens with them. As of right now, they’ve kind of still just remained friends, but you never know.
What would you say that you’ve learned about life as a teen mom role while being on the show, whether the first season, the second, or also the third?
I learned that it is probably one of the toughest things you could ever take on in the world. I was fortunate enough to never have to go through that, but I cannot imagine actually living as a teenage mom. I can’t imagine having just even the silly little things they have to do everyday like change the diapers and heat the milk bottle. The things you never think about, but really take a toll on the mother; and to just be a teenager myself and to know all the dreams and ambitions that I have for my life. I was talking about this with one of my good friends the other day actually how crazy would it be to have to give up our dreams for the child. I think that it’s very scary and wonderful at the same time and I’m just glad I never had to go through it. But the teenage mothers that do take on motherhood at a very early age, kudos to them, because that is not an easy task.
I was just wondering if before you began on this show, were you aware of Molly Ringwald’s career and her having been a teen idol and being in movies, like Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club?
I had watched Breakfast Club, I had seen Sixteen Candles, but it was more like I didn’t really know the legendary like part of Molly Ringwald and just meeting her without that whole mindset was really interesting and intriguing to me; because she is such a down to earth woman and so beautiful on the inside and out, and an incredible mother, and such a good confidant to talk to as far as for my personal life and everything, and I really respect her as a lady.
Do you consider yourself a role model at all?
A lot of people ask me that question and I have a difficult time answering it, just in the sense that I’ve never been pregnant. So I feel like it’d be kind of biased, or not biased, but unfair of me to give advice on teenage pregnancy just for the fact that I’ve never been pregnant myself. So it wouldn’t really be true advice, it would just be advice that I would pretend if I were pregnant, that’s how it would be. I guess I could say I’m a role model as far as I have a lot of passions myself for the environment and for preserving the earth and preserving the human interactions with each other. I guess I could be a role model in that sense as far as Shailene’s goals and Shailene’s passions, but not for Amy.
Since the show was so controversial in the beginning, how do you see what type of impact it’s made?
Honestly, when little girls come up to us and say how they feel about the show, it’s always like, “Ah, Ricky is so hot, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But they’re really amazing. Feedback that we’ve got from parents who have come up to us and said like, “Wow, this shows opened such incredible avenues for me and my children to communicate.” I grew up in a very open household where if I had a question about anything, I could ask my parents, and they would answer me truthfully and not hold anything back. I think that really helped me as a child know exactly what everything was. I had a lot of friends who couldn’t talk to their parents, so they would ask their peers information about guys and that whole situation and make mistakes because they didn’t know the true facts. I think it’s really incredible that parents have been able to say that they have watched the show with their children and then been able to talk about how certain things happen and why they happen and kind of go through all that and be comfortable around their children. And that’s really inspiring to me to just know that we’ve opened up communication in households that might have not necessarily talked about it before.
Be sure to watch the mid-season premiere of The Secret Life of the American Teenager on January 4th (Monday) at 8 pm.