Why Shailene Woodley Hated Her Role On The Secret Life Of The American Teenager

Shailene Woodley's resume is filled with popular and critically-acclaimed television and movie projects that have made the actor a household name. From young adult films like "The Fault in Our Stars," "Divergent" and "The Spectacular Now" to the HBO hit series "Big Little Lies," the Hollywood star has become a predominant figure both on and off screen.

All that being said, the role that helped Woodley get to where she is today isn't one that she remembers fondly. As the star of the now-defunct ABC Family series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," Woodley landed her first major television role, marking the beginning of her notable career. Her career and personal life — including her rollercoaster relationship with Aaron Rodgers and experience as an environmental activist – all trace back to her time on "Secret Life."

Despite the fact that it provided a launching pad for the rest of her career, Woodley would end up hating her role on the show as Amy Juergens.

Filming the show was one of the 'hardest things' she's done

"The Secret Life of the American Teenager" tells the story of Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley), a teenager who becomes pregnant after losing her virginity. At the beginning of the project, Woodley was inspired by the show's plot and signed onto the project after reading the scripts for the show's first three episodes.

"[Those episodes] all hit home," she told Bustle in a 2020 interview. "I had friends in high school who were pregnant. It felt like everything that I wanted to be sending into the world." But the progressive nature of the show's original episodes turned more morally conservative over the course of five seasons, featuring characters encouraging each other to abstain from premarital sex, shaming those who did have sex, and wearing promise rings.

Woodley wasn't the only cast member who felt uncomfortable sending out these messages to audiences. "There were a lot of things that were written into the scripts that not just me, but a lot of the cast, disagreed with," she told Bustle. Contractually-bound for the duration of the show, Woodley had to stick it out, also telling Bustle that "[t]o this day, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

These days, Shailene Woodley is more 'vocal'

Though it seems safe to guess that finishing out "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" was far from one of Shailene Woodley's favorite acting gigs, she said that the experience made her more passionate about her beliefs. Woodley told Bustle, "​​being on 'Secret Life' propelled me to be more vocal about my own belief systems."

Alongside her impressive acting career, Woodley has devoted a significant amount of time to activism. She capitalized on the attention brought about from her arrest during a 2016 protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline to bring light to environmental and indigenous issues. In an essay written for Time, Woodley wrote: " ... [I]t took me, a white non-native woman being arrested on Oct 10th in North Dakota, on Indigenous Peoples' Day, to bring this cause to many people's attention. And to the forefront of news publications around the world."

As a young actor, Woodley didn't dream of being a star — she just loved acting. "I didn't want fame," she told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2021 interview. However, her acting career has offered Woodley a platform, one that she's used to promote her own non-profit for youth that she started with her mother called All It Takes. And though "Secret Life" proved to be difficult to complete, Woodley didn't let the show's messaging dissuade her from her own beliefs about sex and love. "I love sex," Woodley told Bustle. "I think it is one of the most underrated, underappreciated, and undervalued experiences that we have."