Reconsidering the past? Some actors aren’t proud of every project they’ve been a part of — even the ones that skyrockets their careers.
Shailene Woodley scored her big break on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but the experience came with its own issues. After playing teen mother Amy Juergens from 2008 until 2013, Woodley later revealed that she felt “stuck” on the former ABC Family series.
“To this day, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” the Big Little Lies alum explained to Bustle in April 2020, referring to the teen drama’s pro-abstinence message.
Although Woodley initially agreed with the story that was being told, she eventually found herself questioning the path her character took.
“When I signed onto Secret Life, I read [three] episodes and I signed a contract for six years,” the Emmy nominee recalled. “[Those episodes] all hit home. I had friends in high school who were pregnant. It felt like everything that I wanted to be sending into the world.”
The consequences Amy faced after having premarital sex were seen as a warning for the other characters — and even to viewers — which Woodley didn’t agree with.
“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 added at the time. “There were belief systems that were pushed that were different than my own. Yet legally, I was stuck there.”
As a result, the Divergent star decided to explore more adult roles that felt more authentic to her personal opinions, noting, “Being on Secret Life propelled me to be more vocal about my own belief systems.”
Jennette McCurdy, who is best known for her role as Sam Puckett on iCarly, also recalled feeling “deeply unhappy” with her past acting roles.
“I was a famous 19-year-old, and making a bunch of money, and I felt like I had everything at my fingertips,” McCurdy said during her “Empty Inside” podcast in March 2021. “I actually really resented my life because I didn’t like the projects that I was a part of.”
The former actress starred in the Nickelodeon hit series from 2007 until 2012. She later returned for the short-lived spinoff Sam and Cat alongside Ariana Grande. For McCurdy, it was “a difficult thing” to take pride in the shows even though they brought viewers such joy.
“The shows that I was on were so loved by so many people and so many kids, and I hear constantly, ‘You made my childhood,’” she noted. “And I think that’s great that they had that experience. But that just was not my experience, and I felt a lot of shame — that I wasn’t able to identify at the time — because I didn’t like waltzing onto an over-lit, cheesy set and shouting a line. It felt so pointless and shallow.”
The California native, who originally started acting because of her mother, later chose to step away from the spotlight.
“To be known globally for this thing that’s not really me, it was just like, ‘What the f–k am I doing?’ How do I even find myself when I’m 19, and I’ve been famous for all the years that I would normally be stumbling through finding myself, yet I’m known as a thing that I’m not?” she added. “It just was — hellish, I think, is not too intense of a word.”
McCurdy has since found that living life “in accordance” with her true identity has helped ease mental health struggles. “And that feels a million times better,” she said.
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