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Kate Winslet on Insurgent: I Wanted More Fight Scenes With Shailene Woodley

9 minute read

In The Divergent Series: Insurgent, hitting theaters March 20, Oscar-winner Kate Winslet returns as the villainous Jeanine Matthews. Picking up where the first adaptation of Veronica Roth’s hit young-adult series left off, Jeanine is hunting down Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), two divergents — people who don’t fit perfectly into one of society’s five factions — who threaten her corrupt control of a dystopian Chicago. The 39-year-old actress spoke to TIME about playing a bad guy, the importance of young-adult fiction and which faction Rose from Titanic would choose.

TIME: You were drawn to the role of Jeanine because you had never been a villain before. What’s the best part about playing one?
Kate Winslet: The novelty of that was definitely the most thrilling, really, but also playing a character who could be many versions of nasty — there is lot that is sinister about her. That, as an actor, provided me with a platform to have a lot of fun and try lots of different things. To have that level of power over all those individuals, that was just a really exciting, new thing for me to play around with. And I could be a part of something that is a pleasure for so many people to watch. So many people are in anticipation of its release. It’s lovely to be apart of something like that.

You’ve called Jeanine the female Hitler — that’s a pretty intense label.
But you can see why! I watched Insurgent the other night, and I really sat there thinking to myself, “Oh my god, she is Hitler.” It is harsh, but it’s the truth. Her behavior is diabolical. It really is appalling. The only thing that saved me from disliking her as much as I did is that I know she never existed. Somehow that saved me. I was able to laugh. It’s what you have to do when you play somebody like that.

Is that different from when you played an actual Nazi in The Reader?
It’s an interesting thing, playing a character who didn’t exist versus playing a character who potentially could have existed. It’s very easy for me to judge and have a strong opinion about a character who is fake and will never exist. I can easily say to you, “Jeanine is a completely despicable, disgusting woman, and if I met her, I would trample her to the ground and pull her eyes out.” I can say that to you. But when one plays a character that either exists or potentially could have, I find myself feeling incredibly protective of those characters. I’m sure if you looked hard, you’d never find me saying anything disparaging about [The Reader character] Hanna Schmitz, although of course this storyline she occupies is not a very nice one. That’s something new I learned through playing a real villain in Jeanine versus an accidental villain, I suppose, in playing Hanna.

See All the Best Actresses in Oscar History

Cinema Personalities, pic: circa 1930's, American actress Janet Gaynor, (1906-1984) who had one claim to fame in that she was voted "Best Actress" at the vey first Oscar's ceremony which was then a very minor affair thought to be of no great note
1929: Janet Gaynor - Street Angel, Sunrise and 7th HeavenBob Thomas—Popperfoto/Getty Images
America's Sweetheart
1930: Mary Pickford - CoquetteEdwin Bower Hesser—John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Divorcee Norma
1931: Norma Shearer - The DivorceeGeorge Hurrell—John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
1931: Portrait of Marie Dressler
1932: Marie Dressler - Min and BillKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Helen Hayes
1933: Helen Hayes - The Sin of Madelon ClaudetGeneral Photographic Agency/Getty Images
Portrait of actress Katharine Hepburn on the set of her Broadway play "The Philadelphia Story."
1934: Katharine Hepburn - Morning Glory 1968: Katharine Hepburn - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 1969: Katharine Hepburn - The Lion in Winter 1982: Katharine Hepburn - On Golden PondAlfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Claudette Colbert
1935: Claudette Colbert - It Happened One NightImagno/Getty Images
1936: Bette Davis - Dangerous 1939: Bette Davis - JezebelKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Luise Rainer
1937: Luise Rainer - The Great Ziegfeld 1938: Luise Rainer - The Good EarthTed Allan—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Vivien Leigh
1940: Vivien Leigh - Gone with the Wind 1952: Vivien Leigh - A Streetcar Named DesireGordon Anthony—Getty Images
Ginger Rogers
1941: Ginger Rogers - Kitty FoyleHulton Archive/Getty Images
Joan Fontaine
1942: Joan Fontaine - SuspicionJohn Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Cinema. Personalities. circa 1940's. British actress Greer Garson, portrait, among her many films "Goodbye Mr. Chips" 1939 and her 1st Academy Award film "Mrs. Miniver" 1942.
1943: Greer Garson - Mrs. MiniverPopperfoto/Getty Images
Red Riding Hood
1944: Jennifer Jones - The Song of BernadetteSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Ingrid Bergman
1945: Ingrid Bergman - Gaslight 1957: Ingrid Bergman - AnastasiaApic/Getty Images
Joan Crawford
1946: Joan Crawford - Mildred PierceSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Olivia De Havilland
1947: Olivia de Havilland - To Each His Own 1950: Olivia de Havilland - The HeiressSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Loretta Young In 'Paula'
1948: Loretta Young - The Farmer's DaughterColumbia Pictures/Getty Images
Jane Wyman
1949: Jane Wyman - Johnny BelindaJack Albin—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Judy Holliday
1951: Judy Holliday - Born YesterdayGAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images
Shirley Booth As Hazel
1953: Shirley Booth - Come Back, Little ShebaCamerique/Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn
1954: Audrey Hepburn - Roman HolidayHulton Archive/Getty Images
Grace Kelly
1955: Grace Kelly - The Country GirlSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Portrait Of Anna Magnani
1956: Anna Magnani - The Rose TattooMondadori/Getty Images
Joanne Woodward
1958: Joanne Woodward - The Three Faces of EveSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Susan Hayward
1959: Susan Hayward - I Want to Live!Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
1960: Simone Signoret - Room at the TopKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Elizabeth Taylor
1961: Elizabeth Taylor - Butterfield 8 1967: Elizabeth Taylor - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Sophia Loren
1962: Sophia Loren - Two WomenSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
The Graduate
1963: Anne Bancroft - The Miracle WorkerSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Patricia Neal
1964: Patricia Neal - HudGene Kornman–Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Julie Andrews
1965: Julie Andrews - Mary PoppinsSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Julie Christie
1966: Julie Christie - DarlingSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Maggie Smith
1970: Maggie Smith - The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Glenda Jackson In 'Lost And Found'
1971: Glenda Jackson - Women in Love 1974: Glenda Jackson - A Touch of ClassGordon Film Productions/Getty Images
Jane Fonda
1972: Jane Fonda - Klute 1979: Jane Fonda - Coming HomeSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Liza Minnelli
1973: Liza Minnelli - CabaretTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ellen Burstyn
1975: Ellen Burstyn - Alice Doesn't Live Here AnymoreCynthia Macadams—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Fletcher As Ratched
1976: Louise Fletcher - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Faye Dunaway
1977: Faye Dunaway - NetworkTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
50th Annual Academy Awards
1978: Diane Keaton - Annie HallRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
Sally Field Portrait Session
1980: Sally Field - Norma Rae 1985: Sally Field - Places in the HeartHarry Langdon—Getty Images
53rd Annual Academy Awards
1981: Sissy Spacek - Coal Miner's DaughterRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) Awards - November 3, 1983
1983: Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice 2012: Meryl Streep - The Iron LadyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
41st Annual Golden Globe Awards
1984: Shirley MacLaine - Terms of EndearmentRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1986: Geraldine Page - The Trip to BountifulABC/Getty Images
Marlee Matlin
1987: Marlee Matlin - Children of a Lesser GodKevin Winter—DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Cher At The Academy Awards
1988: Cher - MoonstruckEvan Agostini—Liaison/Getty Images
Jodie Foster, New York City "Little Man Tate" Premier, Oct 1991
1989: Jodie Foster - The Accused 1992: Jodie Foster - The Silence of the LambsThe LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
1990 NATO/ShoWest Convention
1990: Jessica Tandy - Driving Miss DaisyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
51st Annual Golden Apple Awards
1991: Kathy Bates - MiseryRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
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1993: Emma Thompson - Howards EndRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
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1994: Holly Hunter - The PianoRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1995 Vanity Fair Oscar Party - Arrivals
1995: Jessica Lange - Blue SkyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1996 Palm Springs International Film Festival
1996: Susan Sarandon - Dead Man WalkingRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
3rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
1997: Frances McDormand - FargoRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
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1998: Helen Hunt - As Good as It GetsRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow
1999: Gwyneth Paltrow - Shakespeare in LoveVince Bucci—Getty Images
Hilary Swank Stars As Carly Reynolds In Beverly Hills, 90210 (Season 8 World Vision Enterpri
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In recent years, young-adult franchises have landed a surprising number of accomplished actors: you in Divergent, Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Hunger Games, your new Insurgent co-stars Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts. How do you explain these movies’ appeal?
I can’t speak for any of those other actors you mentioned, but for me, I’d say this is a great, quality piece of movie-making and screenwriting, and the novels themselves are spectacular to read. Both myself and Naomi have children, and when you’re a parent, watching something that their generation and their friends at school can enjoy as well is pretty thrilling. That definitely for me plays a big part in wanting to do something like this.

One can’t help but mention The Hunger Games in the same breath as a series like this one because there are so many comparisons one can draw because of the nature of these franchise pieces. But after the success of The Hunger Games and how entertaining that has been for my kids and their friends, it’s a really wonderful thing to be able to go provide them with more entertainment of that nature.

And I really did love these books. They’re very intelligent and cleverly written, very captivating for young readers. There’s a lot to be said for that. Harry Potter really harnessed the imagination of so many young-adult minds, and it’s the same with the Divergent series. As soon as the script came in and I read the first one, my children literally saw it on the kitchen table and said, “Oh my God, mom, wait a minute, that’s that book!” When you hear how much of a buzz there already is just because of how good the books are, that definitely makes you go, “Wow, gosh, I didn’t know anything about how exciting this is for young readers!” It’s not my readership, it’s not my age range, but to have something brought to your attention specifically by the 10-year-olds? That’s a big deal.

It’s a wonderful thing as an actor to be able to do that and to do something completely different. Since Titanic, I’ve been very fortunate to play diverse roles and worked with absolutely wonderful people, but the nature of the films I’ve been apart of have often been quirkier and smaller by choice. To be a part of something like this, it’s a whole new experience, and a very thrilling one.

See Hunger Games: Mockingjay Stars' Most Memorable Past Roles

Jennifer Lawrence is a household name now thanks to roles like Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies, but back in 2010 she was still a relative unknown when she made her breakout performance as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone.Lionsgate; Roadside Attractions
Before he brought to life Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games novels, he played Jesse Aarons from Bridge to Terabithia in the 2007 fantasy film by the same name.Lionsgate; Buena Vista
Liam Hemsworth, aka the real life brother of Thor, plays Katniss’ love interest Gale Hawthorne in the Hunger Games movies and also played a runaway teen named Victor in the 2009 British thriller Triangle. Lionsgate; Icon Film
Woody Harrelson spends his time in the Hunger Games mentoring Katniss as former District 12 victor Haymitch Abernathy, but back in the day he spent his time schooling others in basketball as Billy Hoyle in the 1992 comedy White Men Can’t Jump.Lionsgate; 20th Century Fox
Before she was dressing up victors in the Hunger Games movies as Effie Trinket, Elizabeth Banks was dressed up in scrubs as Dr. Kim Briggs in the long-running television show Scrubs.Lionsgate; NBC
Donald Sutherland may rule Panem with an iron fist, but he showed a much gentler side as Mr. Bennet in the 2005 romance Pride & Prejudice.Lionsgate; Focus Features
Julianne Moore takes on a stark tone as the reserved and stoic President Alma Coin of District 13 in Mockingjay, but in 1998 she played the uninhibited avant-garde artist Maude in The Big Lebowski.Lionsgate; Gramercy Pictures
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman brings his considerable talent to the Hunger Games as the Head Gamemaker turned rebel Plutarch Heavensbee, but years prior, he portrayed the author Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic Capote, a role for which he would win an Oscar for Best Actor.Lionsgate; Sony Pictures Classics
Sam Claflin plays Finnick Odair, the charismatic victor from District 4, and was also William, Snow White’s childhood friend, in the 2012 fantasy film Snow White and the Huntsman.Lionsgate; Universal
Before he was interviewing the Hunger Games victors about the minutiae of their lives as Caesar Flickerman, Stanley Tucci chased the latest in fashion trends as Nigel, the snarky art director of Runway magazine, in the 2006 comedy The Devil Wears Prada.Lionsgate; 20th Century Fox
Jeffrey Wright portrays the genius inventor Beetee in the Hunger Games and also played CIA operative Felix Leiter in the James Bond movies Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.Lionsgate; MGM
Long before he was shooting propaganda films in Mockingjay as Pollux, Elden Henson was shooting pucks back in the 90s as Fulton Reed in the Mighty Ducks trilogy.Lionsgate; Buena Vista
Although Mahershala Ali has to fight the Capitol’s considerable forces as Commander Boggs in Mockingjay, human soldiers should prove much easier after having to face off against aliens in the 2010 sci-fi flick Predators.Lionsgate; 20th Century Fox
Natalie Dormer joins the cast of the Hunger Games as Cressida, a talented propaganda director, in Mockingjay, however, most people will better know her as Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones.Lionsgate; HBO

You must be the coolest mom ever now.
100 percent. Seriously. They want me to get to school a little bit before pick-up time. They like it if I’m killing time in the playground.

You and Shailene Woodley don’t have as many fight scenes in this movie. Were you relieved, or do you miss the pretend combat?
You know, I do actually wish there had been more fighting with this one, only because when we were shooting Divergent I was actually pregnant and didn’t have a huge amount of physical strength. There was a lot, to be honest with you, that the stunt double did because of my condition! So although I wasn’t entirely back in my pre-baby shape, it would have been nice to have thrown a few punches in Shai’s direction! But I do prefer hugging her to hitting her.

At least you no longer have to spend every scene hiding the baby bump with Jeanine’s futuristic iPad.
You have no idea! That was one of the things I was excited about: We can wear the fantastic tight dresses that we had planned in the first one! We actually did completely redesign all of Jeanine’s wardrobe because I became pregnant. We had to re-costume me because the bump ended up getting rather large faster than we anticipated. It was fun to give her a slightly cooler, almost harsher look.

You’ve said before that what Shailene is experiencing now in her career is what you went through after Titanic. What advice do you give her?
I felt I was able to have a protective wing around her through Divergent. I was a safety net from afar. She hasn’t particularly needed me for the second one now because she herself will admit she learned a great deal through the experience of Divergent and the press attention that came after that. I wish I could have truly prepared her properly, but of course you can’t really, until you’re in those shoes. She definitely had to experience that for herself.

The one thing I would say is for both Shai and [her co-star] Theo [James], it’s been harder for them than it was for me. The simple reason is social media is what it is. It literally is a dominating beast, and we didn’t have that back then. And when I say back then, do you have any idea how long ago it really was? I’m turning 40 this year! Leo [DiCaprio] turned 40 last year! It’s a long time ago. Now, with the Internet, and the way social media works, it’s all so much faster and so much more intense. For these guys, there is literally no escape.

The way I coped with it is just by standing on my own two feet, focusing on the work, reminding myself that I do this job because I love it and not reading anything. Ignoring all the hype. To a certain extent, that’s what Shai has been doing because that’s her way anyway. And I will say this: She walked into the shooting of Divergent a very experienced young actress already, a very good young actress already. She is very secure and comfortable with who she is no matter what anyone tries to throw at her. All I can do is hug her and cheer her along from the sidelines.

Do you ever think about which factions your previous characters would choose, like, say, Rose from Titanic?
She would probably pick Erudite — yes, of course she would. What would Clementine in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind do? She probably would have picked them all and dyed her hair a stripe of each faction: black on one side, white on one side, blue down the middle.

So you’re saying Clementine is divergent?
You’ve opened up a whole can of worms now.

Read next: Shailene Woodley Calls Edward Snowden a ‘Hero’

13 Sequels That Were Almost As Good As (Or Better Than) the Originals

The Godfather: Part II The Godfather Part II starred Al Pacino as mobster Michael Corleone and Robert De Niro as his father, Vito, in the 1974 Oscar-winning sequel to The Godfather. Paramount
Toy Story 2 In Pixar's 1999 follow-up to Toy Story, Woody, a cowboy doll voiced by Tom Hanks, is stolen – and his ragtag crew of fellow toy friends vow to get him home safely.Pixar/Disney
The Dark Knight In Christopher Nolan’s 2008 sequel to Batman Begins, Christian Bale returns as Batman, this time joined by Heath Ledger as the ultra-creepy villain known as The Joker.Warner Bros.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey In the 1991 follow-up to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the titular slackers (played by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) return with a new and even more excellent adventure. Orion
Terminator 2: Judgment Day In the second, more elaborate installment of the Terminator action movie franchise, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the Terminator, who must take on a newer, more advanced cyborg.Tristar
Aliens In James Cameron's sequel to the 1979 film Alien, Sigourney weaver returns as Lt. Ellen Ripley, who takes on even more extraterrestrials — this time, backed by a team of space marines.20th Century Fox
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back In the second installment of the Star Wars franchise, released in 1980, the Galactic Empire, led by Darth Vader, pursues Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. Lucasfilm/Disney
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'New Line Cinema
D2: The Mighty Ducks The 1994 sequel to the original Mighty Ducks, the ragtag team of young hockey players – the Ducks – are reunited by Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez.)Disney
Back to the Future Part III In 1990, the final installment of the Back to the Future trilogy brought Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) back to the big screen for one last time-travelling adventure.Universal
Superman II Christopher Reeve returns as Superman in this 1980 sequel, as he continues to battle villains and fall deeper in love with reporter Lois Lane.Warner Bros.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan In the second Star Trek film, released in 1982, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) returns to take on his old nemesis Khan Noonien Singh.Paramount
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York This 1992 sequel once again follows youngster Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) as he faces off against two criminals — but instead of his home in suburban Chicago, this time he's in the Big Apple.20th Century Fox

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