Joining an established franchise the second movie in can be daunting even for the most experienced of actresses, and for Naomi Watts becoming a part of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” came with plenty of first-day jitters.
“That can always be scary, the first day. When I arrived on the set, it was a little scary because this is a very well-oiled machine,” Watts says. “I was just wildly impressed with how things were going and how fast they were moving and how disciplined all of these young actors were. When there’s that many people, you can sometimes sense a little rivalry here, a few issues there, but they felt very connected and very collaborative.”
The center of that warm fuzziness, apparently, was series star Shailene Woodley. “I remember when I first met Shailene I was just enveloped in this giant hug,” Watts recalls. “It felt so warm and just relaxed me right away.”
Watts co-stars as Evelyn, estranged mother of Four (Theo James) and leader of the outcast Factionless in the dystopic future of the “Divergent” world, but as an actress she honestly thought her action-packed days were behind her. “I remember back in the day, when I was sort of at the very end of my ingénue days, being in ‘King Kong’ and having to do quite a lot of physical stuff, making the promise to myself that I would never do that again,” she says with a laugh. “But now I’m an older woman — or a much more mature woman — and I don’t have to do quite what Shailene has to go through. But we’ll see about that for the next movie.”
While the action wasn’t too involving for her — this go round, at least — there were some aspects to Evelyn that were tough to connect with, like the fact that she abandoned her son when he was very young.
‘That one was very hard to reconcile,” Watts admits. But we know that she was going through something that she felt was life-threatening and a great deal of abuse, and that was a survival choice that she had to make. But I couldn’t imagine that anything could be so bad that my children would be left, but this is the world of storytelling.”
Of course, while the “Divergent” franchise has been up and running already, Watts sees this as just the beginning for Evelyn. “It’s a fun character because that’s a complex thing to take on, the regret. But she’s got drive, and she wants to fix the relationship, genuinely, I do think that,” she says. “Perhaps there’s something else going on as well, like she knows that both of [Woodley’s and James’] characters are going to help her achieve things. So it’s hard to establish what her motives are in this movie. We’ve obviously explore that more in the next movie.”
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