Life after war can prove to be much harder in [Fort Bliss](movie:1328103), a film written and directed by Claudia Myer exposing the fragile balance a female soldier attempts to maintain between her loyalty to her country and her love for her estranged 5 year old son.
Starring Michelle Monaghan, Fort Bliss focuses on Maggie Swann, a decorated US Army medic who returns home after an extended tour of Afghanistan only to find her son doesn't see her as his mother. As she struggles to repair the relationship broken by her absence, Maggie is constantly tested with the choice of adapting to a domestic life that feels unfamiliar or following her obligations as a soldier.
In an exclusive interview with Moviepilot, Monaghan talks about the relatable battles her character was forced to face, her experience in HBO’s True Detective and her recent role as Wonder Woman.
This is your first movie involving the struggles presented to those serving in the military. What was it about the character Maggie that made you want to sign up for this film?
As an actor these are the roles you just long to do, to play a woman who is as complicated as Maggie, as conflicted and strong and vulnerable. Someone who can even be perceived as flawed and that is a great role to be able to sink your teeth into. It was a no brainer and it was also an issue I was completely enlightened to which was the cost of war at home, the sacrifices that the family and soldiers make when they go to war. Those are things that I had never considered in my life before. I thought that was really powerful and it was a story that deserved to be told because it is timely and relevant.
To those who think they have seen all there is to see in war movies, what would you say is unique about this one?
It’s a side of the story we haven’t heard. There are over 200,000 women that serve in active duty and over 40% are moms. These are women who make the choice to serve their country and they are also devoted mothers. I don’t think we recognize that there are women fighting on the front line, losing their lives. I think it’s something we need to respect about our female vets.
I also think there is a universal theme about balancing parenthood and a career and most people identified with. It is interesting, if a woman decides to leave her home to go to work, she’s a bad mother. If a man decides to leave to go to work, he is a hero. Women are judged in that way and I think [the film] sheds a little light on that issue and opens a dialogue about it.
Maggie is faced with difficult life choices- adapting to domestic life and taking care of her son or re-enlisting and serving her country. Do you think Maggie's decision is one the audience or those not involved in the military would understand?
Absolutely! We have shown it to military families and to our core audience and they have been nothing but supportive and feel like it’s the most honest picture they have seen of their experience. But moreover, people who are civilians can identify with that struggle, to balance career and motherhood. I think it’s also a very good thing to be an example to your children and say ‘I love my job and I am proud of the job I do regardless of what it is.’ That’s a real gift you can pass on to them and I think the fact that [Maggie] shouldn’t have to choose between one and the other is something everybody can relate to.
You have recently played another character named Maggie in the critically acclaimed TV series True Detective, a completely different character from Maggie in Fort Bliss, yet equally compelling. What was it about this character that held such a strong presence in True Detective?
She was a bit of a slow burn, people had a lot of misconceptions about her and never understood her and I think she was underestimated. That’s what was exciting about playing that role. I loved the arch of the character and how desperate she becomes. It was a great 180 from where she starts. And it was incredibly well written. There was a lot on the page and between the lines that I could bring to it. I was just so excited to collaborate with the likes of all of those people because they are all so talented.
A US Army medic is not the only tough character you have played recently. You voiced Wonder Woman in this year’s Justice League: War. For our fellow comic book fans, what was it like, playing Wonder Woman?
You know, it was really fun! Animation was something I wanted to do for a while. It was very exciting to go and voice a character that is as iconic as Wonder Woman. For me it was fulfilling in a personal way because it was the first time I was able to sit down with my daughter and watch [one of my] movies with her.
Then the true question, if you're game: Marvel or DC?
Oh, I can’t even answer that [laughs]. I grew up with Superman, so he was pretty amazing and Wonder Woman too. They were definitely the superheroes of my generation.
What else is in your career bucket list?
I would love to do more animation. I would also like to do a period film and one day I would like to work on stage. Those are all aspirations of mine and I would love to be able to check them off my list.
Are there any other projects of yours we can look forward to this year?
Yeah, I am coming up with a movie next month on October 17th called The Best of Me, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. It’s a timeless love story, a really beautiful look into a relationship, a love that’s been lost and getting a second chance. It’s beautiful and emotional. My co-star is James Marsden who is a lovely actor and great guy.
Uh-oh, A Nicholas Sparks movie. Should we bring tissues?
You should absolutely bring some tissues to this movie [laughs].
Fort Bliss, also starring Ron Livingston and Manolo Cardona, will premiere in the US on September 19th.