MTV — If you haven’t hopped aboard the “Divergent” train yet, you may want to hurry: The big-screen adaptation of Veronica Roth’s best-selling young-adult novel is barreling down the tracks into theaters — gaining plenty of buzz along the way.
Set in a near-future Chicago in which society has been divided into five factions each representing a different virtue — Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness) and Candor (honesty) — the story centers around 16-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who leaves her family’s faction, Abnegation, for the daring world of the Dauntless.
Star Shailene Woodley’s Tris is hardly the first dystopian dame to grace the silver screen, but when MTV News visited the set recently, the 21-year-old actress explained that she doesn’t view her character as your prototypical hotshot heroine.
“The interesting thing about Tris is — I don’t think she’s a badass,” Woodley explained. “She’s not a superhero. She’s not an action star, and I think that there is something really refreshing about bringing a very normal adolescent to life in a way where she has to rise to the occasion and find her brave heart and be really courageous in situations where she doesn’t necessarily want to be.”
Without the safety net of her family and childhood friends, Tris is forced to find a new support system within her faction, which comes to include love interest Four (Theo James) and pal Christina (Zoe Kravitz).
“I think when you find Four, he’s extremely closed and kind of damaged and learned to exist in this world in the best way that he can,” James said of his character. “He’s chosen not to be a leader. He’s been asked several times. He chooses to take a step back, and as things change and people start to die and things go wrong, he realizes that something needs to be done and something needs to change.”
As Tris’ mentor, Four helps the teen uncover secrets about herself that will not only shape her destiny but put her in danger. And according to author Roth, a natural rapport between the two actors was vital for the big-screen adaptation to succeed.
“The chemistry between them is also really strong. It’s kind of important,” she said.
“I really love Theo,” Woodley confirmed. “He has a lot to offer as far as a person. He’s just a good human being. He’s very pure.”
Clearly, the feeling is mutual.
“The chemistry is pivotal but also needs to be natural and real, and I think that’s something we stumbled upon quite easily,” James said. “It was just there.”
Kravitz concurred: “They have amazing chemistry on and off camera. They’re great friends. They can turn it on like that. It’s magic.”
Watch our behind-the-scenes sneak peek of “Divergent” for even more scoop from the set, including how closely the adaptation hews to the novel.
“Divergent,” also starring Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Maggie Q, hits theaters March 21, 2014.