"Legally I was stuck there. To this day it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," Woodley recalled.
Shailene Woodley is taking a look back at her time starring as a pregnant teenager, Amy Juergens, on "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," the role that launched her career.
In a recent interview with Bustle, the 28-year-old actress described her experience on the ABC Family series as "one of the hardest things" she's ever done. According to Woodley, she was contractually obligated to continue filming the series though she "disagreed" with many of the messages in the show's later seasons.
"When I signed onto 'Secret Life,' I read [three] episodes and I signed a contract for six years. [Those episodes] all hit home," she recalled. "I had friends in high school who were pregnant. It felt like everything that I wanted to be sending into the world."
The series, which ran from 2008 to 2013, was rather progressive in its earlier seasons. However, as the years went on, the show preached more conservative ideologies, including characters saving themselves for marriage as others were shamed for having sex.
"There were a lot of things that were written into the scripts that not just me, but a lot of the cast, disagreed with," Woodley recalled. "There were belief systems that were pushed that were different than my own. Yet legally I was stuck there. To this day it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. So being on 'Secret Life' propelled me to be more vocal about my own belief systems."
After "Secret Life," Woodley starred as the lead role in multiple coming of age films including "The Fault in Our Stars" and the "Divergent" franchise.
"I lost my virginity like seven times on screen!" she told Bustle. "I lost my own virginity in a really unromantic, unsexy way, [so] it's very therapeutic for me that by playing these characters I was showing young women what they can wait for."
Woodley also drew on a painful experience from a past unhealthy relationship for her role as sexual assault survivor Jane Chapman in "Big Little Lies."
"I have had very traumatic sexual experiences. I translate[d] my personal trauma into what she was experiencing in the best way that I knew," she explained. "There have been times in my personal life where [I] want to experience something with someone, but you're so afraid because of whatever it is [so] you stop yourself."
"The Spectacular Now" star said she credits much of her recovery to being in an open relationship.
"I had a lover that taught me a lot about my own body and my own emotional connection to sex," she recalled. "That's when I feel like I healed my relationship with sexuality -- when this beautiful man came into my life and helped me walk through that journey. I love sex. I think it is one of the most underrated, underappreciated, and undervalued experiences that we have."
Woodley first revealed her involvement in an open relationship in an interview with The New York Times earlier this month.
"Listen, I'm someone who experienced both an open relationship and a deeply monogamous relationship in my life," she told the publication. "I think we are in a day and age where there should be no rules except for the ones designed by two people in a partnership -- or three people, whatever floats your boat!"
"But there has to be a level of responsibility in any relationship dynamic, and that responsibility is simply honesty and communication and trust," she added. "Apart from that, it's really none of our business what people choose to do with their lives."