Ashley Judd can’t be easily defined.
She’s an avid political activist and humanitarian who flirted with a U.S. Senate run. She has a degree from Harvard and she’s the University of Kentucky basketball team’s No. 1 fan, though she doesn’t expect them to win another NCAA championship this year.
Oh yeah, and the 45-year-old is an accomplished actress with a career now in its third decade.
Judd plays Natalie Prior, mom of protagonist Tris (Shailene Woodley), in “Divergent,” the latest young adult cinematic adaptation set in a dystopian future.
amNewYork spoke with the busy multi-hyphenate about the world of big-budget franchise entertainment.
What do you think of this surge in young adult adaptations?
I was certainly familiar with this surge in both literature and film featuring young heroines, which is great. It’s overdue and it should be a natural part of our culture and the marketplace.
So you see an overall improvement in representations of women?
You look at the Jennifer Lawrences and the Shailene Woodleys and this is what it should be. Naturally, watching the Oscars I was struck by one of the things Cate Blanchett mentioned in her acceptance speech, which is “Women should be at the center of films. We’re at the center of life.”
What will it take for continuing progress in that area?
I do think other people are better equipped to answer the question from a variety of angles because in so many ways I have opted out. I think a safe answer would be writers, writers creating the material, whether the writers are male or female, and then audiences connecting with material, so there’s basically the supply and demand equation that’s being invigorated on both sides.
How does your job change when it comes to acting in a big-budget studio production?
My job is fundamentally the same. The first thing that came to mind when you were talking about the difference in budgets is that the snacks are better. On “Divergent,” there was a doughnut that seemed to be passed around, my favorite kind ? I put it on my chair and I thought about it all day, I couldn’t wait. I was going to eat my doughnut, and somebody had eaten it and it was gone. I was despondent. And the next day, this whole box of doughnuts from a place called Do-Rite showed up in my trailer.
What makes “Divergent” unique in the realm of stories about individuals rejecting the parameters society places on them?
For me, what came up when I was reading the material and working on it is the fact that I have these essential needs well-articulated by Maslow’s Hierarchy. Sometimes there will be a seamless flow between my need for connection and belonging, for purpose, for autonomy, for safety and security, for self-expression, and other times those things will be in profound conflict and tension. I think that the movie just ebbs and flows between that range of humanity effortlessly.