Growing up is hard. The Secret Life of the American Teenager dealt with teen issues in a way perhaps never seen on a TV show before it. The series also made a household name out of one of the most sought-after actresses working today.
The ABC Family drama aired for five seasons from July 2008 to June 2013. The series followed Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) as she handled pregnancy and parenthood while also struggling with everything that comes from being a high school student.
Woodley was not a novice when she landed the role that would propel her to stardom. She had already appeared on The O.C. from 2003 to 2004 and on a variety of other shows as a guest star. The Emmy nominee appreciated the subject matter of The Secret Life of the American Teenager when she agreed to embody the lead character.
“When I signed onto Secret Life, I read [three] episodes and I signed a contract for six years,” she revealed in an April 2020 interview with Bustle. “[Those episodes] all hit home. I had friends in high school who were pregnant. It felt like everything that I wanted to be sending into the world.”
However, Woodley’s opinions about the story lines changed as in later seasons she saw her character’s pregnancy become a cautionary tale while abstinence was encouraged.
“There were a lot of things that were written into the scripts that not just me, but a lot of the cast, disagreed with,” she explained. “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.”
Despite her negative experience behind the scenes, Woodley certainly made a lasting impression with her performance, from the time of her audition. “Before Shailene Woodley ever walked into the room to audition, I looked at her headshot, looked at Peter Pappas, who we can all thank for casting this show, and I said, ‘She looks like a star,’” creator Brenda Hampton told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. “And after reading for the role of Amy, when Shailene left the room, I said, ‘She is a star.’”
The Big Little Lies alum formed lasting friendships with her costars while shooting the show too. “We already feel like we’re actual high school friends,” Megan Park (Grace Bowman) said during the cast’s October 2020 virtual reunion. “Even if lots of time has passed, and you see whether it’s kind of like no time has passed, because we just sort of had these formative years together. So to me, you guys actually feel like my, like, OG high school friends, which is kind of cool.”
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Scroll through the gallery below to see what the cast has been up to since the show ended.