White Lotus’ Theo James Explains How The Divergent Franchise Negatively Affected His Career

Theo James as Four in Divergent
(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Theo James’ star recognition came from being cast as Tris’ love interest in The Divergent Series. He starred as the sexy, yet strong Dauntless instructor Four who falls for Tris and shows off his fight skills to take down those who threaten her because of her rare Divergent status. While Divergent gave James great acting exposure, he explained how this teen franchise negatively affected his career.

It can feel like a trap to take part in a teen film franchise. While it's a great business opportunity for exposure, it can lead you to be typecast as only the hero, the hunk or the villain. Theo James spoke to Vanity Fair about how playing Four for three movies didn’t do wonders for his career.

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. 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.

While the British actor has said before that he doesn’t mind playing sidekicks for female-led franchises, it doesn’t mean he wants to be stuck doing that his whole career. I don’t blame him as he probably doesn’t want casting directors to only see him as eye candy for ladies who can throw a punch or two. Another British actor, Robert Pattinson, could relate, as he felt he was losing his sense of self filming The Twilight Saga in not having creative control of a character that was written as a book character first. But luckily, Pattinson ended up finding a number of film projects that proved he was more than Twilight.

Well, James won’t have to worry about there being any more Divergent movies, as the box office flop of a series was originally going to reach its conclusion as a television show, only for that idea to be scrapped. Cast members like Shailene Woodley bailed on the series as soon as the television plans were announced, and network executives weren’t happy about that decision either. This means that The Divergent Series would end as a cliffhanger, with audiences never getting to see the latter half of Allegiant come to life. As for if there will ever be a Divergent 4, producer Neil Burger doubts it’ll happen, which is probably a relief for the 37-year-old actor.

Luckily, Theo James didn’t need The Divergent Series to help him succeed in his career. At first, he hit some snags like how in 2019, he starred and executive-produced an acclaimed tale of Jane Austen’s unpublished book adaptation Sanditon before departing after the first season. Then, his starring role in HBO’s The Time Traveler’s Wife was short-lived after not getting a second season. 

But after playing so many literary characters over the years, the Underworld actor got cast in the second season of HBO’s The White Lotus as hotshot financier Cameron. Theo James told Vanity Fair how he marveled at finally being able to achieve the freedom of making bold character choices. On the other hand, this role isn't going to shed him of his eye candy status with that brief but steamy hotel strip scene. While there’s no escaping those striking good looks, at least this role will give him the chance to expand his acting range.

This film and television actor seems to be making attempts to break the mold of the Hollywood hunk status that The Divergent Series gave him. Hopefully his role in The White Lotus will allow casting directors and audiences to see him in a new light. You can watch Theo James play Four in The Divergent Series, as well as check him out in Season 2 of The White Lotus, with your HBO Max subscription.

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.