One of the more alluring aspects of author Veronica Roth’s futuristic thriller YA novel Divergent is that the world is populated with multiple strong female characters. The pic takes place in a society where people are divided into factions based on their personalities, and Tris, our protagonist, isn’t the only girl in the book who can hold her own as a thoughtful and smart young woman. For the feature film adaptation’s role of Christina, a girl whom Tris befriends in her new faction, director Neil Burger opted to cast the talented Zoë Kravitz.
While visiting the Chicago set of Divergent earlier this year along with a handful of other journalists, I got the opportunity to speak with Kravitz about the film. The actress discussed how she bought tickets for the young cast to go to an Erykah Badu concert in order to bond, preparing for and filming the fight sequences, consulting her friend Jennifer Lawrence about the fame that comes with YA franchises before signing on to Divergent, and more. Read the full interview after the jump.
ZOE KRAVITZ: No I hadn’t heard of it and then I read the script and I read the book and I was like yeah this is awesome.
Is there a scene you’re looking forward to filming the most?
KRAVITZ: I did it yesterday. I was really excited to do the scene where I hang from the chasm. We did that yesterday and my arms really hurt today but it was really good it was really fun. It’s an intense scene.
Was that all you in the chasm scene?
KRAVITZ: I have a stunt double. I was doing most of it but I have this really awesome stunt double and there’s some stuff they wouldn’t let me do and she was like hanging there for 5 minutes straight, really hardcore. I don’t have the arm strength for that, Christina would’ve died I would’ve fallen off.
Do you feel like your work in X-Men helped prepare you for the more rigorous training of this movie?
KRAVITZ: Not necessarily the training but these kinds of films where you’re working with green screen and stuff like that. It’s like a whole different art, it’s a very different way of working. So I was definitely a little more prepared this time knowing how that whole thing works.
How difficult is it to put yourself in a scene where you don’t really know too much of what your surroundings are going to look like until a few months later?
KRAVITZ: It’s definitely strange and you have to channel the inner child in you and just kind of use your imagination. It’s like the only way you can do it because Neil will say “there’s people up there and things climbing, people swinging” and I’m just like “okay.” And you have to just use your imagination, which is cool, it’s nice to go back to childhood for a minute.
You talked a little bit earlier about the fight scenes, what was that like for you?
KRAVITZ: The fighting was great. I think it was important for all of us to look authentic and dirty and not look choreographed. That was really important to Neil. And I fight Molly who is twice my size I’m very short and that was good I got my ass kicked and that was really fun to do! You choreograph it to the point where you forget it’s choreographed. It’s all muscle memory and you just start fighting and it’s hardcore.
How is your character’s transition to becoming a Dauntless and how are we going to see that on screen?
KRAVITZ: I think with Christina I don’t think it’s a huge transition. I think it’s she’s someone that, she was a Candor, she was always outgoing and can’t keep her mouth shut. So she brought that into Dauntless, she still has that quality. I think mostly she’s finding herself, dressing the way she wants to dress. Her loud mouth is actually quite appropriate because Dauntless is kind of like do whatever you want. So I think she’s right at home.
She influences Tris a lot just like a bigger sister.
KRAVITZ: Yeah I think that’s the difference between Christina and Tris is that Christina is able to walk through Dauntless like she owns it, and thinks that she owns the place. With Tris it was a bigger transition so it was nice that they had each other.
KRAVITZ: We haven’t really gone down that road. I think that Christina loves Tris and she wants her to do well.
What was the chemistry like between you and Ben (Will)?
KRAVITZ: I met him when I first got here. I met him in the lobby of our apartments when we first got in and he helped me with my luggage, he was very sweet. He’s a gentleman; he’s a great guy. It’s hard because even in the books there isn’t that much, kind of all of the sudden they’re a couple. So we’re trying to find ways in scenes to add little flirtatious moments and chemistry so it’s not like all of a sudden we’re a couple. But have chemistry it’s easy to do.
Does that mean you have more dialogue together than you do in the book?
KRAVITZ: Not really I think it’s mostly like a lot of the scenes are centered around Tris but we’re all together. We kind of become this threesome of friends but me and Ben have tried to add little flirtatious things.
If you were forced to choses one of these factions which would you chose?
KRAVITZ: I don’t think I would survive in Dauntless, that’s some real shit. Maybe Candor, I’m into honesty it’s a good quality. Not selflessness not abnegation.
What about the idea of leaving your family?
KRAVITZ: A lot of people do what their families do. Imagine if everyone in the family is a doctor and they decide to become an actor. Then people have to make those choices for themselves and their art and what they believe in. It’s sad to have to leave your family but I like the idea of someone believing in something so strongly that are willing to find a new family.
What would be in your fear landscape?
KRAVITZ: Snakes and insects, it’s an easy one but honestly throw me in like a box full of snakes I would not do so well.
Did having parents in the industry people you for joining this?
KRAVITZ: Maybe yeah I grew up in the industry and I don’t know anything different. It’s like if your parents were doctors you would know your way around and feel comfortable in a hospital. It’s probably helped me a little bit in some ways. I think it helped me not care so much.
After you found out you were cast in Divergent did you talk to your dad at all? Obviously he’s a huge part of Hunger Games and he’s familiar with this. Did you chat with him at all about that?
KRAVITZ: No so much, I spoke to Jennifer [Lawrence] more about it. She was just like “do it” and super supportive. It’s obviously changed her life quite a bit for the best, she’s killin it. It’s crazy I never expected to be in a big franchise film I was surprised when I did X-Men and then Mad Max and now I’m doing this. It’s really crazy for me.
So, were you hesitant at all and she just kind of helped you?
KRAVITZ: I wasn’t hesitant like I didn’t want to do it but I was definitely aware, especially now that we have Twilight and Hunger Games, we’ve seen how it affects the people’s lives that are in it. So I was cautious but I really like the story and I really liked the book so it wasn’t a hard decision.
KRAVITZ: Not so much yet. I’ve had a few people be like “OMG she’s my favorite character in the book!” That means so much to me you know because there are so many amazing characters in the book and Tris is such an amazing character.” So when people have said things like that to me it really means a lot. I hope that they’re happy!
What do you hope your fans walk away with from your performance in this movie?
KRAVITZ: What I like about Christina is her honesty and me as an actor I’m trying to be as honest as I can for my performance of her. So I hope that they feel her authenticity. She’s not ashamed of who she is and that’s what I love about her so much. I hope that’s what young women can take away from her too.
Is there any one moment you’re particularly proud of and are excited for people to see?
KRAVITZ: I mean yesterday was really fun I hope it comes together well, the hanging off the cliff when Eric pushes me off. I mean this women hangs from a cliff for five minutes straight and if she falls she’s going to die, it’s crazy. That is so Dauntless.
What does that look like is there any green screen?
KRAVITZ: Yeah they had a little mat below me that was green screen. But I was actually hanging I wasn’t touching anything. I mean if I fell I wouldn’t have died.
Have you had any conversations with Veronica about your character?
KRAVITZ: Not so much, she’s been really supportive. She’s come to set a few times and she’s so young it’s crazy. I wasn’t expecting that and it’s cool you see her watching the monitor and she’s interested to see. She’s not judging, she’s just like you gotta let it go. You wrote it and now you just gotta let it go.
When you first stepped on the set did everything looked the way you imagined it? Or better? What were your thoughts?
KRAVITZ: I was actually surprised happily by how raw everything was. We’ve been shooting in real industrial spaces like abandon warehouses and stuff. So it was nice seeing they really left it raw and real, they didn’t make it some kind of Disneyland version of the book, which I think is really cool.
Have you skipped ahead and read Insurgent?
Was it intimidating signing up for multiple films?
KRAVITZ: It’s funny because I have a few other options at the moment just with other films I’ve done. It’s amazing, honestly; it’s nice to know you’re going to be working. I love these books I’m happy to be apart of this franchise. It will be fun, they become your family and it’s nice because sometimes you do a film and you bond with everyone and then you don’t see them again. So it’s nice to know that I’ll see you guys in a year or six months.
Is there anything you have to do before you go back to set now and act? Or can you just get up from the table, go in and do it?
KRAVITZ: I go into my room and do 50 pushups. No, it’s pretty casual on this set it’s nice. Like yesterday was that scene so I was a little bit more focused but it’s pretty joking around.
When you do a scene like that is it a closed set?
KRAVITZ: No everybody’s there.
Christian told us you were instrumental in the bonding. You got a bunch of people to go see the Erykah Badu concert?
KRAVITZ: He keeps telling that story it’s so funny! Yeah the first week, the first thing I do when I go to a new city, I want to go see music. So I was looking on Stubhub.com and I was like “Dude Erykah Badu’s playing” no one was excited as I was and I was like “You don’t understand she’s amazing!” So we got everyone to go. Theo and Christian, the next couple of days like every time I would go to their apartments they would be listening to Erykah Badu.
KRAVITZ: I’ve seen some playback and it all looks fucking cool. Sorry for my language but I haven’t seen anything cut together.
Are you a fan of Neil’s past work?
KRAVITZ: I am. I had seen Limitless before, I watched The Illusionist after, but I’d seen Limitless before. I was very impressed with how visually stimulating that film was, which I think is really important for these kinds of film. I think it was so interesting the way that movie was shot and the action sequences and that whole thing. That was so amazing. I thought he was a perfect fit for this movie. He’s super involved with every shot. Him and the DPs are having meetings constantly, he’s super detailed so I think it will be pretty visually striking.
You mentioned your hanging scene. Is there another scene you’re looking forward to coming together on the big screen like the capture the flag?
KRAVITZ: We’ve done that, it was really fun it was cool. Those were night shoots so we were like at Navy Pier by ourselves at four in the morning watching the sun come up. It was really fun. That’s like the ultimate dream, we’re in these costumes with guns running around playing, there’s a Ferris wheel. We’re like “this is it we’re being paid to do this!”
Did you guys actually use paintballs?
KRAVITZ: No I wish.
I’m curious since you’re such good friends with Jennifer Lawrence, if that sometime formed your friendship with Shailene, being able to see how this movie will change her?
KRAVITZ: I mean I’m sure it’s going to change her life a lot. She knows that. But they’re both really strong women who I mean I think some people wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of transition. Jen has handled it beautifully, she’s the exact same person she was when I first met her. Literally like nothing has changed, a little more anti social sometimes because she leaves her house and people go crazy, but she’s the exact same person. Shailene too is one of the most authentic young women I’ve ever met in my life and I’m not worried at all. She’s fantastic.
Do you ever give Jen shit like “my movie is gonna kick the crap out of your movie?”
Do you have a favorite YA series that you hope this movie follows vs. avoids?
KRAVITZ: I don’t know I really liked The Hunger Games I just think they are different films. Obviously they are being clumped together in some great ways and hopefully it will be just as successful but they’re very different. Neil’s even gone away from the very dramatic look, no one has blue lips, everyone is really simple which is a really cool way to go with it. The lighting and everything is really simple.
Was there anyone of your costars when you read the book you pictured them in a certain way and they really brought the character to life?
KRAVITZ: I think Miles [Teller] is doing such a great job as Peter, he’s such an asshole. In every scene I’m like “can I add the line ‘shut up Peter’ in this scene?” I think Neil did such a great job casting everyone seriously like on the nose. Everyone’s I think even making the characters more well rounded then when I had read them. Al is amazing, Will is amazing. Theo James is incredible, he can turn it on like that because he’s so goofy and then he says action and he’s this striking man. I’m just like “where did that come from?” He’s incredible.
How intense were your fight sequences?
KRAVITZ: It was pretty intense. It was really tiring doing it over and over again. Like I said Molly is twice my size, or Amy [Newbold, the actress’ name], so she throws me around and beats the shit out of me in this scene. I got a few punches in. At first they were like the fight sequence was just me being beaten and I’m like “come on give me a few punches please.”
Peruse the rest of our Divergent set visit coverage below:
- DIVERGENT Set Visit Report; 30 Things to Know about the Next Big YA Franchise
- Shailene Woodley and Theo James Talk the Pressures of the Franchise, Differences from the Book, and More on the Set of DIVERGENT
- Director Neil Burger Talks Making the Future Feel Cinematic Instead of Gritty, the Portrayal of Violence, Filming in Chicago, and More on the Set of DIVERGENT
- Producer Douglas Wick Talks Casting Four, Changes from the Book, HUNGER GAMES Comparisons, the Director Search, and More on DIVERGENT