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Theo James says acting in films like Divergent is "pretty f***ing boring"

The White Lotus star Theo James reflects on getting stuck in "those types of films" after the failure of the Divergent series

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Theo James says acting in Divergent was "pretty fucking boring"
Theo James
Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP (Getty Images)

Theo James is not the first actor to get trapped in a franchise role, and he likely won’t be the last. But now that he has The White Lotus credibility, James finally has the freedom to be honest about his experience in the YA dystopia. Which is to say: starring in the YA dystopian franchise Divergent was, in itself, somewhat dystopian for the actor.

“Careers are funny. They take you in directions that you try to control, but life is uncontrollable, as we know,” James reflects in a new profile for Vanity Fair. “You do a certain type of film and you sign contracts where you are beholden to those roles for a certain period of time and people see you in a certain light that you have to wrestle your way out of. That is a hundred percent the case with actors—and it was definitely the case with me.”

James starred as the broody love interest called “Four” alongside Shailene Woodley in three Divergent films, which were a series of diminishing returns, both critically and commercially. Based on the young adult novels of the same name, the final film was meant to be a two-part installment adapted from the final book. Allegiant did poorly enough that part two was canceled, and producers instead began to develop a television series to complete the story. Woodley publicly expressed her disinterest in participating in the TV show (an opinion one imagines was shared by the rest of the star-studded cast, which included James, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, Bill Skarsgård, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, and more). And so the Divergent project ended with a whimper.

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Nevertheless, James became pigeonholed into “those types of films,” to his chagrin. “I felt I didn’t have the fluidity to move in the directions that I wanted. You’re very much in a certain type of role—and those roles can be pretty fucking boring.” Luckily, he was able to shake loose and star in HBO’s buzziest hit of the year as well as its most inexplicable flop. How’s that for fluidity?