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Drones' Eloise Mumford on drone pilots, PTSD and playing a soldier

A native of the storied coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, Julie Sprankles has been a lover of words her entire life. As a Southerner, she certainly has what her mama calls “the gift of gab.” When she’s not writing, Julie can be...

"It is really intense"

Eloise Mumford is one ballsy chick. In the ABC found-footage series, The River, she played gritty adventurer, Lena Landry. Next year, she'll be part of the S&M phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey as Kate Kavanagh. And tonight, she'll be hitting the big screen as Lieutenant Sue Lawson in the edge-of-your-seat military thriller, Drones. The spirited actress fills us in on the "incredibly intense" role.
Eloise MumfordPhoto credit: Nikki Nelson/WENN

The story of two soldiers tasked with deciding the fate of alleged terrorists with the touch of a button (and a lot of blind faith), Drones is the kind of movie many actresses might politely tread lightly around and just tiptoe by, but not Eloise Mumford.

"I read the script and I instantly fell in love with it," she shared. "I was incredibly excited to be reading a script that dealt with such important things that are going on in the world right now, so I fought really hard to get the job. I think it's really important — regardless of politics — to talk about the effects that drones have on humanity and on the people that are piloting them, as well as the decisions that they're asked to make."

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In addition to the controversy and the ethical dilemma surrounding the use of drones in combat, the gripping film, which plays out in real time, addresses a host of hot-button topics… hard-to-come-to-terms-with topics, such as the military's judicious view on civilian casualties, the validity of the war on terror and the use of 9/11 as a motivator.

Mumford stars opposite Matt O'Leary (Brick, Frailty, Sorority Row), and the two create an undeniably charged set. As time runs out and tensions become fraught, it's hard not to feel as though you're trapped in the stifling control room, too.

"It is really intense," Mumford admitted, noting that she and O'Leary did a lot of prep work to get into the right mindspace.

"One of the things we did was we met with a drone pilot and spoke with him at length about what that experience was like and how hard it is to have a 9-to-5 war job, basically — where you're coming home at night and seeing your family at night and then going back to work in the morning and you're expected to be on the battlefield — and how hard psychologically that is," she explained.

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The training wasn't entirely psychological, though. She also underwent a rigorous boxing routine to ensure she was as physically fit as her character would be. "Then, when we got to set," she told us, "the words and the story kind of took care of the rest."

Still, she reiterates that it is "incredibly tasking" and "emotional" to put yourself in these soldiers' shoes. "Soldiers in many ways are trained to not act on emotion," she explained, "and so it's the constant push and pull of the emotional side of it and the fact that they're trained soldiers and they're trained not to feel those emotions that was incredibly difficult."

The undercurrent to these pervading issues, of course, is the aftermath.

"The reality is that veterans, in general, in our country right now are not getting enough attention, and not even in a patriotic sort of way, but just in the reality of PTSD is incredibly real," she asserted.

It doesn't just affect the foot soldiers on the battlefield, either. She explained, "Drone pilots, who aren't necessarily coming home, but who are always home, but still participating in warfare, are having really high levels of PTSD. It's something that we need to deal with as a society in some capacity."

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While she hopes Drones resonates with people the way it has with her, Mumford's walking away with a heightened awareness regardless. "The reality is that if you sat me down in a drone pilot's seat, I would have no idea where to start!" she laughed. "And that just gives me a real appreciation for the people doing it."

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