For Woodley, rediscovering her character in this, her first sequel, was by no means an easy, familiar task. "Getting back into Tris was much more difficult than I anticipated because I didn’t take into account that I, myself, had grown for a year," she explained. "I figured that going back into her would be simple because I would just go back into that mindset, but my personal mindset had progressed a year in evolution so I had to go back to who Shai was a year in order to get back into Tris’s mind. For training, the first movie we did a lot of choreography and fight training and this one was basic sort of fitness. There wasn’t anything too intense."
While all three actors return from Divergent, that film's director, Neil Burger (Limitless) moved on to other projects, opening the door for new franchise helmer Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.).
"Second movie around, you've already set up some of the key storyline elements, so we have that luxury of jumping straight into the action without exploring characters or introducing them again. Also, his energy is inherently different, which is always good. As much as we like Neil, it's always fun to have someone to add something different, like new actors, new producers, it always helps to mix it up," said James. "We had a bit more money so that always helps.
"At the same time, though, which was really cool about Robert, with no discredit to Neil, but I remember the first day I came to set, Robert sat me in a room for about fifteen, twenty minutes and we really just talked about my character's arc throughout the whole story," added Elgort. "And he was like, 'We're going to keep having these conversations because they're really important. I don't want to lose your character throughout the parts where he's not in it because it's an important arc.' And I have a feeling he felt that way about everyone's character, and to me, him being a great action director, he was a great actor director at the same time."
"When we first found out that Neil Burger wasn’t going to be doing the second film it was a little strange to wrap your head around how somebody would fill those shoes simply because Neil created that world, the visual world of Divergent," said Woodley. "He took Veronica’s book and then he added all of the visual aspects to it and breathed life into it."
Of the new director, Woodley said, "Robert is a genuine, warm, pure human being and he makes you feel immediately comfortable. He doesn’t have an ego. He’s very open to collaboration and he’s very open to hearing what you have to say and taking your opinions into account, which I think is such a blessing. If someone new had come in and had this very strong idea of what they wanted and didn’t care what you thought, I think there would have been a lot of intensity around that situation because we knew a world so well and he had his own vision of a world so it wouldn’t have worked out."
"Robert is amazing. He’s a family man—his kids were on set all the time," she continued. "He shows up every day with a smile on his face and a let’s do this attitude. He’s very committed to the work and to the creative aspects of the work. But he’s also committed to having fun on the job, which I think sometimes a lot of people forget to do in any job in life not just in this industry. So to have a creative leader, captain of a ship bring that sense of spontaneity and that sense of passion while also retaining the integrity and dedication to the hard work that needed to be done was really wonderful and I’m excited to be working with him."
As a civil war brews, Insurgent dramatically increases the amount of onscreen action. For Woodley, that meant a lot of demanding, complex sequences filled with derring-do and visual effects.
"There’s one really rad sequence where Tris is chasing the house. I think we had four or five stunt doubles there. There was a bunch of women there with short hair and the same exact outfit walking around," she recalled. "It was really funny. I got to do a lot of when the house is tilting . We were on wires and we would slide down. There was one where the house was tilted almost at a 90-degree angle and that felt pretty bad ass. I was like if I don’t grab this pole I’m not going to get hurt, but I am going to be dangling in the air and have a crazy bad wedgie. So that was pretty fun."
One character largely left out of the shoot 'em up action is Caleb Prior, Tris's brother once again played by Elgort, who admitted, "Caleb is definitely not a bad-ass, he wasn't Dauntless."
"It was definitely a conscious choice to make sure Caleb wasn’t’ (a bad ass). I'm a physical guy, I play basketball, rock-climbing. I like to be physical, but Caleb definitely isn't.," he explained. "So if you watch the film, the way Caleb runs he looks like he doesn't belong. He looks like he's going to trip over at any second. Because, to tell you the truth, it's never been something that he did. I want to make sure I made a conscious decision, and be specific with that. Not everyone is a superhero; not everyone is an action hero. I think Caleb represents the intellectual."
While the spectacle and the stakes are both raised in Insurgent, the core of The Divergent Saga remains the relationship between Tris and Four.
"I like the fact that they have mutual respect for one another," said James. "I think that this movie is different from the first in the sense in that, in the first, Shai is playing catch-up, in a way, because she's introduced to this world and Four, you don't really know where he's coming from. He's a little bit elusive, where in this movie, he is almost trying to quell her revenge, the revenge for the death of her friends and family. I think the relationship is different in the sense that they have a mutual respect for one another and her femininity doesn't detract from his masculinity and the other way around. She's a very strong female lead character, but she is also very feminine at the same time."
"One of the reasons I fell in love so deeply with Divergent was because of the relationship between Tris and Four because it was grounded in truth and authenticity and respect," Woodley agreed. "It wasn’t based on surface level physical attraction or infatuation. It was really Tris and Four equally saw each other as individuals that were inspired by, individuals that they were intrigued by, curious about. There was a sense of mystique about each of them."
"I find it fascinating and I loved that in Insurgent their relationship is rocky. It’s not 100%. It’s not every time they see each other they feel safe and feel protected and like they’re able to be vulnerable," she continued. "They put up walls against each other and that happens in partnerships. Everything has an ebb and a flow and I thought that was one of the smart things that Veronica could have gifted to the young adult world. Yes, there are lots of books that do that, but this one to have that involved with an action film or action series is quite rare I found. It’s great to have a platform for not only for young adults but for everyone to recognize that relationships can be based in truth and be vulnerable at the same time when your walls go up just to recognize that you’re keeping somebody at arm’s length because of your own defenses. Not because of anything they’re doing. That’s all defense mechanisms are—inabilities to protect our own inner vulnerabilities."
The Divergent Series: Insurgent opens in 2D and 3D this Friday, March 20th.