In this edition of INTERVUE, I recently interviewed actress Michelle Monaghan. She stars in the upcoming Claudia Myers’ movie, “Fort Bliss”. Monaghan plays Army Staff Sgt. Maggie Swann, a soldier who returns from a 15-month deployment and confronts the struggles that many service members — specifically women — face when returning home.
In an roundtable interview with Eddie Pasa from DCFilmdom.com & John Hanlon from johnhanlonreviews.com, the three of us sat down with Ms. Monaghan to talk about this powerful film and her defying role to date. Special thanks to DCFilmdom & TRR Alum Eddie Pasa for the transcription
Michelle, I’d like to know, first of all, what attracted you to the role, and how did you prep for it?
Well, you know, that was – when I read it, I was blown away with the character, y’know? First and foremost creatively, you know, you’re always looking for someone who’s complex, complicated, somebody who has depth and substance. For me, I always like somebody just slightly flawed, y’know? That’s fascinating, that’s interesting to me, and so I was really intrigued by that. But then, moreover, this was something completely original, the story. It was unique, it was something that I was completely enlightened by, it was something I’d never considered. So when you respond so creatively to something and you’re inspired by it, but then, at the same time, you’re talking about something that’s relevant and timely and that really affects a lot of people, it’s kind of the icing on the cake. So that’s what really – I read it, I said, “Wow, I wanna do this.”
I sat down with Claudia (Myers, writer and director of Fort Bliss), and after sitting down with her, it became very apparent that this was someone – the only person – to helm this project, because of all the research she had done on behalf of it for five years… So I had complete and utter faith in her, that she was the right one to do the job. And as a result, with the Army’s support and everything like that, logistically, we were able to go down to Fort Bliss, and as a medic in the movie, I was able to go through an intensive medic training program, and that was great. It was just two or three days, but it became very informative to me, to get a glimpse into the high-pressure scenarios and situations this character finds herself in, the technical things, the precision, and also the decision making. Obviously, it’s, like, 1% of what it actually is, but it was integral for me to be able to have some sort of understanding and appreciation. But the most invaluable thing was being able to spend time with a lot of veterans – female veterans, mothers down at Fort Bliss, and really being able to pick their brains, and their candor and their truthfulness about their experiences, good or bad, and their struggles. That allowed me to have some emotional appreciation and confidence in order to convey what they go through.
That’s great. By the way, My Fiancee & I loved you in True Detective.
Thank you! That’s so sweet! Does she have the hots for Matthew or Woody?
It was Matthew, all the way.
There you go. Fair enough.
You sing the praises of the writer/director. I want to hear what it’s like working with the cast. Ron Livingston, Emmanuelle (Chriqui), and Oakes, who plays your son. That must have been a tough chemistry between the two, especially with subject matter that’s very heavy.
It was very heavy, and again, we had four days of rehearsal for the whole entire cast. Manolo and I had an afternoon, Ron and I had a day, and I think Oakes and I had two days. Again, it’s a testament to Claudia and her writing, and having everybody totally be on the same page. Y’know, the great thing about the cast – it’s not overwrought with sentimentality and forcing anything down your throat – it’s everybody just being very real. Emmanuelle Chriqui, she’s so very, very real. It’s not like this competitive thing about the mother; it’s natural for a kid to gravitate toward another maternal figure, and Maggie ends up respecting that in her, and that’s very real. It’s also Ron Livingston saying, “If a mother leaves home, she’s a bad mother.” But my God, if a guy leaves, we don’t even question it; you and I, none of us would be sitting around, having this conversation. And it’s a shame that we have to choose – as a woman, not just in the military, but in general. You have to say, “Okay, you have to choose one or the other. You can’t leave home and be a devoted mother.” We judge that.
It seems like the overall message is, “The female soldier is torn between serving her country or staying with her family. You can’t do both.”
You can’t do both. That’s exactly right. And the reality is that these women who choose to do this are damn good at their job, and they love their job. They’re devoted to their platoons, and they feel responsibility to the people that they serve with, and that is such an honorable thing. I think that’s such a powerful thing, to be able to live that example for your children, because I think it’s a thing any one of us want for our children, to say, “What you do in a career is meaningful, it’s impactful, and it impacts on people’s lives.” And I think that if you allow men to have that, as an example, but you don’t allow mothers to have that as well, I just think you’re doing a disservice to everybody. I appreciate that, I appreciate Ron’s performance, and Pablo’s performance which, again, is a daring performance. It’s a hard role to take on, and he’s a daring actor. Freddy Rodriguez and his role as the CO, and that’s so true, and that’s painful. (Quoting the film) “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, how old are those pictures?”
Eddie: (Quoting the reply.) “A couple of years.” That killed me.
“And I know ‘World’s Best Dad’ ain’t one of them.” Painful. And that’s a person that’s in the crosshairs of doing his duty, but also being sensitive to the soldiers that he commands. Everybody’s got their own dilemma, and I just feel like that’s really great storytelling.
Check out Michelle’s performance in Fort Bliss, coming to theaters THIS FRIDAY, September 19th!