WOMEN
10/20/2014 05:08 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Shailene Woodley On The Importance Of 'Truthful' Sexuality In Coming-Of-Age Movies

Shailene Woodley has played a dystopian heroine and an American teenager with a secret life, but the actress says her latest role offered a new sort of challenge: filming a sex scene while looking straight into the camera.

"That was a little bit interesting," the 22-year-old actress told the audience at AOL's New York office on Oct. 16, speaking about her starring role in Gregg Araki's "White Bird in a Blizzard." Araki, who directed the film, joined Woodley in a conversation for AOL's live interview series BUILD.

"White Bird in a Blizzard" stars Woodley as 17-year-old Kat Connors, whose sexual awakening and coming-of-age dramas are intensified by the sudden disappearance of her mother.

When so many coming-of-age stories avoid a direct confrontation with sexuality, Woodley praised the film's willingness to explore it truthfully. "When I signed on to do the film, I knew that that was part of this character and part of her world," she said. "I think it's so refreshing to see a coming-of-age film that actually deals with sex and that has sexuality be a large theme."

The film's approach to sexuality was "truthful, it wasn't exploitative," Woodley said. "It's such a large part of so many adolescents' lives... We just don't really talk about it and we really don't talk about it in cinema too often with young people."

Araki's films have been praised for their thoughtful portrayal of sex and intimacy even under unusual circumstances, but he said writing from a female perspective in "Blizzard" -- the film is based off a novel by Laura Kasischke -- illuminated facets of the female experience he had never "even thought about," he told the BUILD audience:

Everything I've done up until now has been written by myself, a man, or adapted from a book or a script by another man... That's what was so fascinating about [the film], its point of view: What it's like to be a woman, what it's like to be a young girl coming of age, what it's like to be a mother and a wife who's not happy and playing this role she really doesn't want to play and the relationships between mothers and daughters. There were so many things going on in this story that I had never, even as a man, even thought about. I think that was something, as a filmmaker, that really, really excited me.

"White Bird in a Blizzard" premiered at Sundance in January. It will be released IN[to] theaters on Oct. 24 and is currently available on demand and on iTunes.

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