Actors Michelle Monaghan And Gbenga Akinnagbe Discuss Their Roles In Fort Bliss

Below is the transcript from the Q&A with actors Michelle Monaghan and Gbenga Akinnagbe following a private screening of their new film Fort Bliss which was screened at NYFA’s Union Square campus and moderated by Acting for Film chair Glynis Rigsby.

Glynis Rigsby: So for those of you who don’t know, these are two extraordinarily accomplished actors whose body of work actually has a tremendous range. Both have done television and they’re in the Law and Order: SVU club. They’ve done television series and movies. They’ve both produced; Michelle is an executive producer of Trucker and Gbenga produced Dunes. Gbenga has actually done writing for The New York Times. And what do these ventures say about your careers in acting. I say that because many of the students here are actors. For an acting program, it’s a little embarrassing having you here because your careers actually began not from training programs. Michelle you majored in…

Michelle Monaghan: Journalism.

GR: Michelle majored in journalism at Columbia College and Gbenga actually majored in English and Poli Sci and Bucknell. It seems you both went out and auditioned. And one of the things that I think is very interesting about the way your careers evolved, and also your relationship to this film, is you went and did it. So a lot of your work, it seems to me, has a connection that has to do with those degrees in that it’s thoughtful work. It has a connection with something larger than what we think of the traditional lights and shininess of acting. Gbenga, you were very renowned for your work on The Wire, but also your work in 24. [To Michelle] You’ve done Mission: Impossible III, but you also did tremendous work on True Detective. So it’s a career where with a film like this seems very new, from what I can tell from your bios, that you’d be involved with a film like this. So I would like to hear you just talk about that aspect of your work where, the connection with this film and the connections with the characters, which are again not very shiny. You’re telling stories that might have personal and social connections and where does that come in with your work as an actor and what interests you?

MM: That’s actually something I’ve reflected on a lot in my life because I didn’t grow up wanting to act. I did, however, grow up in a really small town, a town of 700 people, very rural. And current events was something very common, something that we really witnessed, something we took very seriously in our home, we debated—I have older brothers, my mom and dad—we read the paper, we paid attention to the world. I think looking back on it now, journalism for me, investigative journalism, seeing other aspects of the world, was something that interested me, and I don’t know if it was because I kind of wanted to get out, and I was interested in that, and that was the only way I could think that’s the way I could get out and experience the world. I don’t think anybody really, I mean for me, thought—growing up in such a small town—that I would ever do something like this.

So I think in terms of what I relate to, it’s very real characters, very similar to this, that are grounded, that really feel like they could be the person next door, often times working class, which is my roots. And in terms of my prep for—you know, I haven’t studied acting as you said—but over the course of the years as I started acting I discovered I was actually using the five “W’s” and “H”—which is the who, what where, why, when, and how—you guys are all acting students, but it’s the approach to writing a news story essentially, and that’s what my approach is to characters. So thank God it wasn’t all for naught, I didn’t waste all that money, you know, because I didn’t get my degree. I left my senior year. So I used that.

But it’s interesting how your path presents itself and you just sort of go down one road and an opportunity presents itself and I feel very fortunate that I took the road less traveled to get to the ultimate place, but I think what I was aware of as a young child was probably, ultimately, this. I just didn’t know how to articulate it. I didn’t know how to articulate what my dream was at that particular time. That sort of answers your question.

GR: Gbenga, in interviews, at least from what I saw, you said you actually tried acting out not really knowing if it was something you wanted to do. It was just, “Maybe I’ll do this” and then you got cast in the Shakespeare Theatre and discovered it. But you got your degree in Poli Sci and English, clearly there was a possibility that something else would work out. I got to say as someone who actually got a degree in drama, I’m somewhat envious, I actually wish I had got a degree in history. That’s what’s so interesting to me about the fact that you’re both here on this film, in many ways a historical document of what’s happening right now. But that idea that there are other things out there, as it can get very isolated, very incestuous….

Gbenga Akinnagbe: I think it’s very important for someone who’s going to be an actor, an artist, to study and practice things outside of that art. I think actresses’ work I appreciate the most didn’t grow up acting. They did other things, they were engineers, and then they went into acting and studied elsewhere and they practiced it elsewhere. They had a core in something else. Yeah, like you said, I fell into it. I used to work with the federal government, the corporation for national service, registered assistant. It was an agency that Clinton started, it was the headquarters of Americorps and Vista and Teach For America and those programs. And so one of the superiors in my office came by my cubicle and mentioned that a friend of theirs was in town doing a show, a play, and that was the first time I conceived the thought that acting was a career you did. So I asked her about it, I was like, “Wow, that’s wild. Someone does that for a living?” She thought I was asking because I wanted to get into it. And she really just offhandedly dismissed me and said, “Oh you couldn’t do it because my friend is this…. (indecipherable).” And I was like, “Oh really?”

And so I didn’t even really want to do it, I just got this spark of interest. I bought some books, I went online, I went into chat rooms when they weren’t so creepy. Google had just started so I was Googling things so I just found out. Google had just started. So I got as much information as I could and I found out there were auditions near where I was working so I went out. I remember my first audition, I had the paper in my hand and it was like shaking like this as I was reading it. And I left completely embarrassed, but like thrilled and exhilarated. I used to regret not having studied acting, but then I realized it was one of the best things that could have happened to my career.

GR: I’m just thinking, when you come to a film like this, everyone gets involved in projects for a number of reasons, and that goes for any artist. Walking into a room with a certain project so this script is sent to you and people have interests. People have varied interests. You can have a rabid interest in fantasy football, as I think one of my colleagues does. But then they get the fantasy football movie and a connection is made. So, my next question would be about the connection that you had when you read the script and what drew you to it. I think sometimes it take someone to actually get to a place, Gbenga, you were talking about that, whether it’s in the audition process or whether it’s the writing and producing process. But there’s gotta be something about it that you love, something that speaks to you, that’s interesting to you. So just to hear both of you, or one of you, talk about what it was about the script that made you connect, that was interesting to you.

MM: Well, I think that when I first read it I just couldn’t believe what an amazing role it was. You know, they really are few and far between, female roles and male roles. You know someone as complicated as this. And when Claudia gave me the script, it was a tight script, it was near perfect. It wasn’t like it needed work. Someone just handed me this diamond in the rough, the woman was just so complex. She had substance and depth and conflict, what some people might call a woman who is flawed. So as an actor, that’s something you just want to sink your teeth into and at the same time, it was completely original. I had never kind of considered this aspect more seriously. This wasn’t something I was confronted with. I remember growing up in the lunch room, they would always have every branch of government sitting there, getting ready to recruit people. But I just sort of knew that’s what people did without an education. We weren’t at war at that very particular time so I never really considered the cost of war.

So I saw this dilemma, this conflict on page I thought “Wow, this would be really interesting to explore.” And so when I sat down with Claudia a few days later, I realized, it became apparent that she had been doing research, essentially she had been making documentaries for the military for five years. She had been writing this, and doing her homework for five years, which is why it was so good. But which is why it felt so real and poignant and important and timely and relevant. Because it was and it was really told from such an authentic place. And she was so confident in that and she had the Army support and all this stuff that it just became a no-brainer to go down this road, big or small, to do something of this quality.

GA: Same, you said it better. The characters were just well-rounded and they were real. The script was tight. And that’s so important to an actor, to a production. I remember meeting with Claudia after having read it and being really impressed, not just with the script and also to find out her background—all of the stuff she had been doing with the Army and so on and being a woman who has a different point of views than the people she’s working with. You can tell she can work with anyone and I thought the Butcher character added something very interesting to the story. And I was like “This is really cool, but can I play the Mexican?” She was like, “Well, we’ll think about that.” But all the characters really added to the story. They’re people themselves who are going through their own struggles, you see glimpses of their lives that you get. It’s not like you see glimpses of their lives that you don’t get and then you see how it all adds to her story. We can only take a small credit for it. The story was really well done.

MM: Yeah. I think to touch on that as well, all of the characters I still sort of marvel at it because it is such a little testament to her storytelling and her direction. But why it was so confidently acted by everyone is because all of the characters are making sacrifices. No one’s right, no one’s wrong. They all live in this grey world, which is where everybody fucking lives. That’s where conflict arises. So everybody’s just doing the best they can in a really imperfect world. And I think that’s why everyone does such a profound job because you really sympathize with all of these characters because one minute you’re aligning yourself with Maggie and her perspective, because she’s a strong woman and why shouldn’t she be able to go to war and leave her son behind. And then the next moment you’re aligning yourself with Richard, you know, who’s like, “Listen, you leave for fifteen months and I’m waiting for my door to be knocked on by somebody to tell me that you’re dying. That’s selfish, you know?” You understand these perspectives and I think it’s just so rare to be given material that’s kind of electric like that. So fair and honest.

Fort Bliss movie poster

 

Student: How’d you guys prepare for your roles, for your characters?

MM: Again, because Claudia had done all of that homework, there was so much on the page honestly. I felt like I was connected to the character when I read it. But we were able to go down to Fort Bliss. We actually ultimately shot down there, but prior to it we went down there for about a five-day research trip. I went through an intensive medic course just to really understand basic field surgery and to really just… Well, first of all to understand technically what I was going to be doing because I had to. But really understand the intensity that comes from that, just to get a glimpse from that, just a percentage of that. But really what was invaluable was spending, of course, the time with all of the female vets down there and earning their trust and then asking them questions. And I think initially they were skeptical of everyone. I think Claudia and our producer, Adam Silver, had warmed them up quite a bit months earlier and I came down and I just really expressed how sincere I was about telling their story and their struggles in a very authentic way, in a really honest and truthful way. And they were very candid and they really were open and honest and it was completely humbling.

And something I took from it as women is just really how grounded, truly how strong these women are and we’ve all been through serious things as you can see—it’s quite prevalent—and how matter-of-fact they are. And they’re not women who are asking for compassion or empathy or anything like that. They’re women that just want to be recognized and appreciated for what they’re doing and the sacrifices they’re making. And the way they shared their stories with me was with such grace, I really wanted to convey that. And they have such restraint, and whether that comes from a good place or not—you have to question that—but they have such restraint. And without having spent time with them I would not have been able to emotionally appreciate and engage that performance in the way that it does. So therefore, when she does open up and the ice starts to melt it becomes incredibly impactful, as it does for their loved ones as well.

Student: The little boy in the movie is amazing. Here we practice with all adults. What’s it like to interact with a child on set and how much preparation did you…obviously he has to trust you a lot. I was just curious what that was like.

MM: You know there’s a big stigma around that, and I think we’ve all experienced that, and I’ve worked with a lot of kids and that’s not been my experience at all. Maybe I’ve been really fortunate. But Claudia really went through a huge trouble, for lack of a better word, to find the right person. If she didn’t get the right boy there was going to be no movie. And she found Oakes and he’s sort of wise beyond his years.

GA: And that kid is special. I was having conversations with him in Hair and Makeup and I was like “Whooaaa.”

(Audience laughs)

MM: He looks tinier than what he is. He’s seven, but he’s a tiny seven. But he read the script, he understood the script, he knew what was happening with all of the characters. His folks were super cool, not stage parents at all. Fortunately I have children and have been around a lot of children and you just sort of connect with them on their level. It’s a no-brainer. And in between takes we would just try to keep it light, and just sort of play and stuff. But if anything, they’re not a burden. If anything they’re an inspiration working with children because they don’t think about it. They just act with very little thought and one minute they’re playing with a truck and the next minute they’re in a very emotional connected scene. I didn’t…with the exception of him, a couple of maybe afternoons of having a lot of sugar, you know, which there was. I mean, the little shit deserved it!

It was hard because we shot in twenty-one days. People would be like, “Ok we gotta get this, come on!” But that’s just him being a kid and you have to honor and respect that too. But I loved working with him. He’s so tremendous in the film, those little eyes, the physicality. He doesn’t even move his head, just the way he looks at you, with his eyes. It’s just such a lesson with acting because there’s so much subtlety of acting that’s so powerful to what we do as human beings. We’re really subtle, we really connect with people and communicate with people in really subtle ways. So it was just a reminder to watch a child do that and to embrace that yourself.

Student: Going off the preparation question, I noticed that both the characters are suffering from PTSD. So I was just wondering how much you guys looked into that or if it was just already there for you from the director.

GA: I got drunk and got into bar fights. No, I didn’t get drunk but I did do bar fights though. No, what was great about this film was the subtleties. Like what [Michelle] said, it was shot in a real way, it was written in a real way, and the themes were laid out in a real way, which was really smart storytelling because it’s very easy, particularly in a film like this where these are all elements we see in the news all the time and you know an audience will be like give it to them heavy. It’s very easy to do that: “Intensity, intensity” with shoulders shaking and sweating in a corner and shooting up things. Most cases like that aren’t like that, aren’t expressed like that. They’re expressed with difficulty with relations with loved ones. And Claudia, having the history she does with the military, working with soldiers and so on, she could tell the story in a real way. And she chose to. It’s a credit to her as a smart filmmaker. Often times we sensationalize for the sake of getting an audience or the possibility of getting a studio, but she wrote the script she wanted and shot it the way she wanted. She had full cooperation from the Army and they didn’t actually try to get her to do anything with the script, editing it or tone it down or nothing like that. They gave her full, full leeway to do what she wanted and to their credit they got out in front of it. So I think because of that, because this is a real depiction of soldiers—not just one, but soldiers in general that have PTSD—it’s more difficult to watch.

Has anyone ever seen 127 Hours? He’s cutting off his arm and it’s taking him all this time and so on. I went to go see it and when I left, someone had fainted, a couple people had fainted, and I was talking to some of the people that worked in the theatre and they were saying that this has been happening all across the country, people throwing up and so on, and fainting. And I think it was because it was a very real depiction of someone doing this. We’re all used to sensationalized violence, but this was a very real thing—the ligaments, the bone—what you really would have to do to accomplish this horrible task. And we’re not used to that and we reacted to it. So I think that’s another reason this film was strong, it was a very real depiction of what people, it was like very raw.

Student: In the movie, there was some sex. It was very real. My question is how do you manage to make it seem so real. I know it’s not real, but….

MM: It was not real, you know. They were intense scenes to shoot, you know. Manola Cardona is a wonderful actor and I know he’s got a huge following in Latin America and he’s done a lot of strong work there. And Claudia really wanted to work him. He’s a tremendous actor. And those are very vulnerable scenes to shoot. Fortunately I’ve had to shoot a lot of those in my career and that’s just sort of the way it goes. And everybody knows what you’re doing. It’s like a professional thing and everybody’s been in the room when that’s gone on. I think what made this tricky, it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be sexy, of course we’re meant to see that they have that initial attraction. The sex is an acting out for her because she doesn’t know how to communicate because she’s so emotionally suppressed as a result of all these things. And I love the aspect of this filmmaking because it’s actually really hard for me to watch it too. And I typically don’t have a difficult time watching myself on screen, but those scenes are confronting because they happen, they’re jarring, and they are so sort of explicit. And then as the story progresses you understand the context in which—I hope you do—in which why they are what they are. So they’re not supposed to be necessarily sexy or beautiful or passionate. They’re just supposed to be a reflection of who she is and what she’s going through and her state of mind and it’s her state of mind. So Claudia and I had a lot of talk about how we were going to shoot that because, you know, it makes me a little uneasy, but it’s truthful to how women sort of respond and how men respond to coming home from war.

Student: I was wondering if you could talk more about working with Claudia. I didn’t really know who the director was but as I was watching I got a sense of a sensitivity and I was wondering to myself if it was a woman director. Could you talk more, if you’ve worked with men and worked with women and how you felt working with Claudia and how she approached her whole storytelling and production.

GA: I don’t know if this is PC or not, but I think when I watch most films I could tell if a woman directed it or a man’s directed it. I think that Claudia’s film is very—and that’s not necessarily good or bad, sometimes it is. This film is very well done. She has a lot of experience working in a man’s world and she has the sensitivities of the person, of the woman she is and she was able to tell this film in a way that you watch it and you’re not quite sure if a woman or a man directed it. Just because I’m hypercritical of the business, I’ll say because how well she told this woman’s story, a woman directed this. But because of how well she told this person’s story, we can see that what she’s going through is relative. Both men and women go through this thing. We were at Virginia last night at another screening and Q&A and I thought about how much of what we see is male-dominated roles, written by men, produced by men, and so on. And we just kind of buy into it and this is the story and these are the stories. But with a strong female lead—to be honest, it’s not about her being a female—this is like a human being going through something. But because it is a female we are able to see it as a human being, and not necessarily the typical male-dominated stories we see. So it kind of opens our minds even more so. And to her credit [Michelle] didn’t play it—she’s a smart, beautiful actress—she didn’t play it easy. This was a woman’s struggle. This was a woman’s struggle. I could see a guy go through the same thing. We heard stories of fathers. Actually, one of the reasons Claudia had started this was a single father from the military who she met and who was going for his second deployment. And she asked him, “Well, what are you going to do with your son?” because the mother is not in the picture. And he’s like, “Well, I’m leaving my son with neighbors for fifteen months at a time or so on.” And Claudia had never thought about what happens to these families, what happens to these single parents and so on. And here’s a great depiction of that and because it’s a woman we’re able to see it as a personhood. Do you understand what I’m saying?

MM: I would completely agree with him.

Student: Would you say playing these roles changed in any type of way? You came from something that coming into it you didn’t really have now.

MM: For me, 100%. This role, this experience completely enlightened me to an aspect of the world I never considered and, you know, these women completely touched my life. And the whole experience, I’m just so grateful for it and it’s definitely something I want to continue to bring awareness to. And it’s not just the sacrifices our soldiers make, but truly the sacrifices that they’re families make. There’s one woman that shared with me; she’s an amazing medic, highly decorated, she’d been deployed a couple of times. She was really a huge asset to me in terms of my prep. And she was getting ready to redeploy on her third deployment. This was after a week, she was like “I found out my five year-old son has just been diagnosed with autism and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” And it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is a woman who’s been with the same platoon for three, four, five years. So she feels really, really torn between her country and her family. She’s completely dedicated to her platoon, they depend on her, she feels a real responsibility to them. And that’s a very honorable thing. She’s a medic. And at the same time she’s devoted to her son. And she made ultimately the decision to leave her son with his grandparents. Fortunately she had them to lean on. But for fifteen months, that’s a really, really long time. And I just honor her for doing that, and making the decision. And I respect her for that. I don’t judge her for that. I don’t know if a lot of people would have the same perspective if a father said, “Well, my son has been diagnosed, but I’m going off to war.” We would say that’s an honorable thing and you’re providing for your family. But if a woman does that, we judge them. We say “She’s a bad mother.” And I think, that’s just something I want to shed more light on. There’s over 200,000 women in active duty and over 40% of them are moms. And they are doing a really honorable thing and I just want them to be recognized for that.

Student: I just want to ask you two, having all the knowledge that you have acting and the journey that it takes. You do wonderful work like the one you guys are doing. If you could go ten years into the past or five years and you could see yourself, what advice would you give yourself that has to do with the journey you’re gonna go on.

GA: This feels so Actor’s Studio right now. But I feel ya, I hear you, I hear you. I have to think about that so go ahead.

MM: You know, I would give just real simple advice. And it’s just in terms of the audition process. I just think that’s a very daunting thing to do. I don’t know what stage you’re at, you know. We still go in and audition and part of me kind of likes it because I like the idea of knowing that I earned the job. There are times, with this job, I auditioned for it and it was offered to me and you know, there are fears to it. And all of a sudden I’m going to get there on the day and I’m going to make some choices and they’re gonna go, “Well, this isn’t exactly what we wanted to do.” I actually try to embrace it and acknowledge it and know that not every audition is going to be awesome, but you can just make an impression. There have been tons of auditions I’ve gone on that I’m like, “There’s no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to get this role.” But if I can at least make an impression with the material in some small way. Or even just with the casting director. Maybe a casting director will invite me back the next time around and maybe I’ll be able to connect with that material better. I just think, not to be so hard on yourself. Also in terms of the audition, they want you to get the job, remember that. They’ve invited you into the room so they want you to get the job so just try not to be as intimidated. I know I try to tell myself that too. And just always be off-book. It took me years to remember that. I think it took me at least probably three years. And I forget how much great work you do between lines. Again, it goes to what I was saying earlier you know. Your opportunity to connect with that camera, that casting director, that reader that’s right after you finish that line and if you look down, you’ve wasted half of the opportunity right there. Half of the audition is in the actual words and the other is between lines. And I would just say that’s really practical advice and once I really accepted that and embraced it. And you can really put a lot of work into the memorization aspect and then I could actually allow myself to have fun with it.

GA: It’s interesting because I don’t go into an audition off book….

MM: Wow. Everybody has their own process!

GA: Yeah, and it’s something that I always wanted to dabble with because there are so many little things you can do to practice and try on your journey. And that’s something I’ve wanted to practice and try. It’s a ballsy thing. But I’ll have [the script], even if I don’t need it, I’ll have it in my hand.

MM: I’ll still hold it. It’s a little crutch.

GA: But in terms of giving myself advice ten years ago, honestly I would tell myself to make sure you do evaluate things outside of this business. I’ve seen so many people who’ve been torn up by the business or torn themselves up. And you really have to be honest about why you get into this. And honestly, no one can judge you as far as why you get into this. I remember talking with one dude—I was just about to say his name but I won’t—but I was talking to this one dude, I was out in LA and just him and his journey just scared the hell out of me. I was like, I don’t want to be that. So one day I asked him, “why are you doing this?” And he said, “I want to be on billboards, I want teenage girls to scream my name, I want to be on t-shirts.” And it’s like, alright!

MM: Wow….

GA: And the thing is, I actually respected him more because I didn’t respect him all that much before because he knew exactly why has was in this thing. And I couldn’t judge him. And on top of that he knew why he was doing it, so it was like, good for you. So whatever your reason is, no one can judge you. Just make sure you know what it is, be true to yourself—I’m telling myself from ten years ago—and have value and practice things outside of this business.

Student: OK, so in the scene where Maggie and Butcher have their confrontation, I’m curious to know from both of you, what processes did you go through to capture the intensity of the scene. Because there’s kind of a moment there, it’s kind of like their climax. So I’m curious to know how you go about capturing that.

MM: You know, Gbenga and I had, I felt like a very strong chemistry from the very beginning. I feel like there’s that scene where they acknowledge each other, where the lockers are. I forget what that area is called. They shake hands. Did we shoot that first?

GB: We did.

MM: We shot that first. I feel like we might have been in a fortunate situation where we got to shoot some things chronologically. But that scene is a really intense scene. Gbenga’s performance is quite, there is a lot of depth there, there is a heaviness. There’s a lot riding on it for Maggie and I think that when I honestly opened up the door—I don’t know if we rehearsed it in a room or on set—but I remember him in the state of that place, but truly as a person, when I opened up that door, that informed me about a lot of things. Like I went, “Oh, wow, this shit’s for real.” I kept having that experience again and again, it was heavy. But I kept feeling like that’s really real. You know, it’s a beautiful scene to play with you. It’s beautifully written. And again, all of the writing is a real testament to Claudia because the direction and the tone are really specific and I think that’s a testament to Claudia casting the right people. She knew what kind of actors she wanted and what they would bring to that and she put us all together and allowed us to do what we wanted to do. But she directed us delicately as well to make sure there was nuanced beats there, if that answers your question.

GB: [Michelle’s] absolutely right. [Claudia] directed delicately and I was fortunate enough to work with people throughout the film who were just really open to trying something different, including the director. It was a really collaborative process and you don’t always get that. But it was that, I think the film shows that. The best things came from that. Was it late the night we shot that?

MM: Yeah, yeah.

GB: So that also helped. We were exhausted. Particularly Michelle, she’s in every scene, she’s carrying it. So bringing that in and being in a room with someone who’s also bringing that in. The stakes were at the highest points at that point. She’s coming into that room and I’m not sure if she’s going to get out of that room. I’m not sure if I’m going to get out of that room. It’s that weird. Like she said, the shit is real. And then you go from there.

Student: Michelle what kind of challenges did you face preparing for a lead role as an actress in such a female-oriented movie as opposed to the supporting actress work you’ve done?

MM: You know, it’s interesting. It’s really honestly the same approach, it’s just the size of the role. This one in particular, you know, it was just a lot more intense. There was just a lot more prep. And talking about the stakes, the stakes seemed higher for me because again I felt like I was portraying real women. And so, because we were shooting in twenty-one days, the prep really had to be done before production. There was no time for Claudia and I to really sit down and talk about anything. We were really clear that the real important aspect was this emotional journey that Maggie went on, the level of restraint that we needed to hold back on. That’s hard for me. I’m a pretty dramatic, I’m an emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So it was a real constant reminder to me and to constantly ask Claudia to make sure that I kept my emotions in check. Especially as I was getting more and more exhausted. So that was really the constant barometer I wanted to make so it was more passionate at the end.

Student: My question is for both of you individually. It’s a very serious movie. What would you say in each individual role is the most fun?

MM: For me, the action. I actually just like that in life. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I got to go through a medic training. I got to insert a lot of IV’s into arms, and do tourniquets and do all these things that I never would have the opportunity to get to do. I’m sure that sounds lame, but that’s one of the things I love about acting, and that’s probably why we’re all here. We like to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes. And you’ve heard this before, you get to learn a little about a lot. And so I love that, I love to learn something new and that was really fun. And then I just loved that real tight group of people, where we all collaborated with. Every single person we worked with, from the cast to the crew, everyone was the most optimistic person. They all came in with the best foot forward and we wanted to do the best we could. So there was an incredible synergy and that was really fun. We’d shoot all night and right before we left set, we’d just like have a beer at 6 AM. And that was fun. It was like we were making a film, a student film. It was nice to have that kind of camaraderie. That means a lot.

GA: I have to say, I too am an adrenaline junkie. I love action, I love to do big, cool things. Running and chasing people and being chased.

MM: Mostly being chased.

GA: I didn’t do any of the paramedic training, but a lot of the training, because we were doing the training scenes out in the field. That was really cool. Just running, running my troops over and all that stuff, I love doing things like that. And I had a good time with some of the actors. One of the actors, he lives between New Mexico and…Luis…and El Paso. And he took us out, showing us El Paso. And he’s a really smart, cool, funny, sensitive dude and he showed us…we just went and we’re looking around and went onto some cliffs and looked down at the city and hung out in front of some rich peoples’ houses. And looked away towards the city. And we just kind of explored, and we could see Mexico from over there and I lived in Mexico for a while so Mexico is a part of me. And it’s just right there, it was cool. That was one of my favorite parts of doing this thing—camaraderie-wise. One of my least favorites was that I wanted to be the Mexican!

Actors Michelle Monaghan And Gbenga Akinnagbe Discuss Their Roles In Fort Bliss by