You might recognise Shailene Woodley from her iconic roles in movies such as Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars, and you might have thought she’s living the life after enjoying such success, but IRL, she had a lot going on off-screen.

“I haven’t spoken much about this yet publicly, and I will one day, but I was very, very sick in my early twenties,” the 28-year-old told The New York Times in an interview published last Friday (April 10).

While doing the Divergent series of science fiction action films (2014 to 2016), she said she was “struggling with a deeply personal, very scary physical situation”.

She did not reveal the details of her condition.

Because of that she added that she “said no to a lot of opportunities because I needed to get better, and those jobs ended up going to peers of mine who I love”.

“They went on to a lot of success, but there was a mix of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t have let that go!’ or ‘You shouldn’t have been sick!'”

The American actress added: “That was combined with my own internal process of, ‘Am I going to survive what I’m going through right now and ever be healthy, or even have the opportunity to work on projects I’m passionate about again because of the situation I’m in?'”

She also admitted her struggles with self-doubt.

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“I was in a place where I had no choice but to just surrender and let go of my career, and it brought out this negative voice in my mind that kept spinning for years and years afterwards,” she said.

Describing her 20s as “a little bit like being in a washing machine, where you’re being thrown all over the place”, she also disclosed that she had experienced an abusive relationship.

“In my late teens, I had a strong idea of my identity and the meaning of my life, but then I went through an abusive relationship,”she said.

“That combined with, honestly, the commercial success I had in this industry began to wear on my strength.”

Shailene, who played single mother Jane Chapman in HBO’s Big Little Lies, currently stars in director Drake Doremus’ romantic drama Endings, Beginnings, alongside Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan.

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Text: Anjali Raguraman / The Straits Times / April 2020
Additional text: Sally Manik
Images: TPG/ Click Photos