It’s been a week since the controversial, talked-about second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies wrapped. And amidst multiple heated conversations — about Renata’s (Laura Dern) outbursts, Mary-Louise (Meryl Streep) and Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) exchanges, a behind-the-scenes scandal about directorial autonomy — there was one seemingly trivial one: What was up with Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) new bangs?
As it turns out, the look wasn’t suggested by the ultra-prestige show’s hair and makeup team. Rather, it was Shailene Woodley herself, who wanted to aesthetically manifest Jane’s slow process of recovery from sexual trauma, she explains on this week’s UnStyled podcast. “When I have experienced trauma in my life, the minute that I felt released from some of it — not that you ever get rid of trauma — but you're walking side by side with it, and you find some sense of healing,” Woodley explains to Christene Barberich, Refinery29’s cofounder and global editor-in-chief. “I have always made a dramatic shift in my body, whether it's losing weight, not intentionally, but because I'm not stressed anymore, and so all of a sudden you're body's like whew, I can move. Or I've cut my hair, or I'll get a piercing, or I'll do something, because my body and my mind are identifying with a new version of me outside of that story, and I wanted to do that with Jane in the second season.”
As BLL fans know, the season 1 finale saw Jane recover a lost traumatic memory and confront Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), her rapist and the father of her 7-year-old son (read our extensive BLL coverage for the full, very complicated story). Thus, season 2, among many other things, saw a lighter, more open Jane. “I wanted to see what she would have done,” Woodley says. “She got a new apartment, she redefined who she was, how she wanted to dress, and how she wanted to look. The bangs were a very dramatic decision.”
The veteran actor even hints that the bangs might have been a rash decision, which was part of the point: “I thought that the bangs could be a decision that maybe she would regret a few weeks later — oh, I shouldn't have done that, but at least I look in the mirror, and I see my new self and not the self that has been haunted by the ghost of season 1.”
Woodley, who’s been working in Hollywood since childhood, feels a kinship with Jane and her trauma given her own personal experiences. That provided a way into Jane’s arc this season, as she inches closer to a romantic physical relationship with Corey (Douglas Smith). “I have never been raped, and I'm very fortunate enough to be able to say that, but I've had a traumatic sexual experience,” she shares. “It probably took me to 26 years old, which only about two years ago, to be able to feel fully 100% safe intimately with someone. And not be in my head about what's going to happen after this, or will something else happen, or what's this person thinking? What do I feel; what am I thinking?
“It's really easy to cover that stuff up and pretend like it's all good,” she points out. “But deep down, there's extreme panic, and that's what I felt with Jane. You go into shock, your body is still living in 2013, when that event occurred. I think she's trying to rationalize within her own mind and fight her own battles: why? What's wrong with me? Why am I not good enough? Why can't I trust again? Why can't I love again?”
Listen to the entire eye-opening, fascinating discussion — Woodley talks about navigating an open relationship, her extended hiatus from acting, how she gave up most of her worldly possessions, and more — and subscribe to UnStyled in Apple Podcasts today.