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Thursday, the cast and crew of Divergent kicked off Comic-Con 2013. The highly-anticipated film is based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel. Like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games before it, Divergent’s expected to be a huge hit. ScreenCrave attended the press conference where the cast opened up about their latest roles and the film’s faithfulness to the book.

Mekhi Phifer on the joys of working with director Neil Burger:

Mekhi Phifer: I think Neil is a visionary man who kind of knows what he wants [but] still allows you to bring your input to the table. I like to call him the man of a thousand takes. The editors should have no problems.

Maggie Q on playing a character so different from Nikita:

Maggie Q: There is a strength and a sort of toughness to her but it’s more internal strength through circumstance. There is more of a look to her, a muscleness. This is good departure for me and I’m really thankful for the opportunity.

On what attracted Burger to Divergent:

Neil Burger: What I liked about it was Veronica’s book. Obviously, for a director it’s wonderful to create a new world, create something visually. Yes, it’s a young woman’s journey but it’s also a universal story. ‘Am I loyal to my family? Am I loyal to myself? What am I really willing to go out on a limb for?’ I really liked all those ideas, and I thought that they were really tightly tied to the action in her book. And then I feel like it expanded out to something much larger which was ‘How do you keep a society together?’ In the beginning it seems like they’ve got it figured out. They’ve got this five faction system, which is kind of a cool idea. They seem to be living in peace and harmony because of it. And then it all starts to fall apart. I like how the character of Tris goes through all of that.

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Shailene Woodley and Theo James on auditioning for other big franchises:

Shailene Woodley: I did audition for The Hunger Games back in the day. Jen Lawrence actually helped me with Divergent. I still have yet to meet her, but I asked her about her experience with THG  and how her life has changed and going from small independent movies to something as big as The Hunger Games. She said how much it’s changed her life in positive ways.

Theo James: I went for Star Wars, as Chewbacca’s son. Its an integral role, so cross your fingers.

Some traits they found admirable about their characters:

Theo James: I had an affinity with the character from the very first time I read anything on it. He was different to me because he had a very grounded, quiet sense of masculinity, which I don’t think you see much these days.  In my mind, the character is reminiscent of those old movie stars, like Paul Newman, who have this strong sense of masculinity without having to show it, and who are watchful and intelligent, but also incorporate all of those traits of someone with strength and a strong sense of being.

Shailene Woodley: I really admire Tris’ sense of selflessness. She grew up with that and it was ingrained in her from a very young age. That is a trait that we could use a lot more of in the world today. I think that, coupled with the bravery that she’s forced to call upon makes for a really profound, complex human.

On the film’s faithfulness to the book: 

Neil Burger: I think it’s going to be very true to the book, actually. Obviously, a movie is a different beast than a book. The great challenge of making this movie was to try to fit as much of the book into it. There are so many characters in the book that have their function and that are beloved, and there are so many great set pieces.  There are too many, really, to fit into a movie, but we really worked hard to squeeze them all in and to come up with an idea for a movie that was even more fast-paced than usual and more condensed than usual. There are three villains. Tris has got a whole set of friends, and then there’s her relationship with her parents and with Jeanine Matthews. There’s a lot going on in the book, and there’s going to be a lot going on in the movie. It’s very faithful to it. Obviously, certain things are smoothed out or combined to make one essential, dramatic journey in the movie, where there might have been more turns in the book, but it’s pretty faithful, which is exciting.

Divergent opens in theaters March 21, 2014.