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About The Production
A Journalist, a Filmmaker, a Call to Attention

"As adept as we are at fighting, we're not very good at bringing them home." -Jason Hall

It was during journalist David Finkel's eight-month tenure embedded with the soldiers of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion that he met the man who would largely serve as the bridge between his account of "over there" (detailed in "The Good Soldiers") and "coming home" ("Thank You for Your Service"). Ten years later, the memory is still vivid.

The author recounts, "One day, during a quiet period, I was asking around: 'Who's a great soldier? Who do I need to meet?' Somebody said, 'You've got to meet this guy Schumann; he's our best.' A couple of weeks went by before I had the chance to introduce myself-and this great soldier was a rather thin, gaunt, haunted-looking man, sitting alone on his bed. It turned out that the great Schumann-after two-and-a-half tours in Iraq, after 1,000 days in combat-had reached his breaking point. He simply couldn't be in the war anymore, and he was leaving that day...and that's when I got to know Adam."

When it came time for Finkel's second book, "It was a very easy call to build the book around Adam and his attempts to recover. The truth of war turns out to be that you're in it for the guy next to you. The truth of the after-war is that you're pretty much on your own. Recovering is a lonesome business, whether you're truly alone or you're with a family. It's a long, hard, unspooling road and with the example of Adam Schumann, you can see how long the road is and what it's like to travel it."

Finkel is quick to point out that the journey undertaken by Schumann and others like him is not trod by every returning soldier-but, since 9/11, about two-and-one-half million Americans have entered military service and of the two million who have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both, "roughly 500,000 have returned with some level of psychological wound. They now get to spend years, if not the rest of their lives, trying to outrun and recover from the invisible wounds of war. That's a lot of people-it shouldn't be ignored, and neither should these people be pitied. Attention should be paid and effort spent to understand."

For Finkel, who continued to follow Schumann and others engaged in the after-war, it became about the resilience of these men and women, struggling to endure. He notes, "The closer you look at the lives of the soldiers in this battalion who fought at that time, resilience comes with complications. Life is a day-to-day act of willing yourself into the next phase of what comes once you've come home from war."

Finkel's second book was enthusiastically received by critics (with NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Economist and others naming it a Best Book of the Year) and readers, among them, filmmaker Jason Hall. While in early collaboration on the feature American Sniper, Steven Spielberg had handed a copy to Hall, who says, "I found it so interesting because it's about everyday heroes. It's about our grunts-the blue-collar warriors who are coming home and assuming the role of husbands and fathers and brothers. It's challenging to step off an airplane and immediately step into that role, with a lack of understanding from the general public-and even their families-on what they've been asked to do over there. We thank them for their service but we don't really know what we're thanking them for.

"The story was about stepping into the boots of a returning warrior. Being able to explore that from within the home was fascinating to me," the filmmaker continues. "We've been accepting these soldiers home since as long as we've been an empire, but we have so far to go in understanding what they've been through-and learning how to embrace and create space for the changes that have occurred within them. That's the challenge for any family welcoming a soldier home."

Hall spent two years adapting the multi-storied work into a screenplay. Finkel remarks, "It was strange at first, because the work I've done is reporting. It's journalism-I wrote a book about what happened, but that book doesn't necessarily lend itself to becoming a movie. Watching Jason take the work I did and refashion it into this film has been fascinating. It is true to the intent of my work, and he did a great job."

Hall approached the script with his own set of objectives: "David wrote what seemed like a poetic work of journalism-he followed these guys around for 18 months, lived with them in their homes and recorded their most private moments. My goal was to accomplish the same thing cinematically-to cut as close to the bone as we could and take a peek inside these lives. I wanted to give the audience a raw look at a world they haven't seen before. Cinema has the ability to create understanding and bridge empathetic gaps in a way that no other medium can."

As he traversed the largely psychological terrain of these men's stories and translated that onto the screen, Hall was also confronted with a distinct set of challenges: "The after-war is the war these soldiers bring home in their heads and their hearts. They walk away from the battlefield and leave it behind-but it doesn't always leave them. These memories, images and instances of trauma have been recorded and built up over the course of a war, and they echo around inside of them like sharp objects. The challenge was to dramatize that and to create this war back home that's going on inside while they struggle to find their way back to themselves."

Producer Jon Kilik, who has collaborated with filmmaker Spike Lee from his days on Do the Right Thing to 2015's Chi-Raq-as well as shepherded The Hunger Games franchise since its inception-has long been fascinated by stories of untold (and unassuming) heroes.

The producer was likewise moved by Finkel's book, which he read shortly after its publication, even looking into acquiring the rights (nabbed by DreamWorks). The same time that Hall was busy promoting American Sniper, Kilik was likewise involved on his latest, the moving sports drama Foxcatcher (which went on to net five Oscar nominations). Although the two were in each other's orbit, they wouldn't connect right away. "And I'd heard a lot about him-that he and Spielberg were developing Thank You for Your Service-but we weren't able to meet," says Kilik.

Nearly a year later, in summer 2015, Kilik received a call from Hall, upon recommendation from Hall's agent. The now screenwriter and first-time director was searching for a producing partner. Kilik remembers, "At the time, I had no intention of taking on anything new...but what sometimes happens is that a story comes along that is so strong and special. Getting to know Jason, and where his research had taken him, excited me, as did his passion as a first-time director. The story has everything-heroism on and off the battlefield, commitment, real people, coming home..."

The producer continues, "I try to make a career of telling stories about people that need a voice, a light shone on them.. As a filmmaker, it's the only way I know how to improve or bring attention to a situation. By calling this the after-war, it's a bit of a call to arms for us to understand the gravity of this, how important it is-for us to be there, a part of their return. They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and that deserves us holding up our part of the bargain."

Filmmakers were in agreement on the transition from book to screen being governed by the production's unofficial watch word-authenticity. Kilik says, "In taking this book to screen, there were the usual practices of restructuring, compression of time and sometimes, of characters. We took great care, because these are people's lives, and there was tragedy that came along with it-we had to treat everything with the utmost respect, always. In the end, we are telling a story of incredible strength and courage."

Everyman / One Man

"I swear, it's like the whole time you're out there, all you wanna do is come home. Come home, and home's just f-ed." -Will Waller in Thank You for Your Service

Hall was adamant in honorably moving the source material to the motion-picture screen-and for the writer/director, this meant gaining the trust (and blessing) of the men and women whose lives Finkel had chronicled before typing one word of the script. And the centerpiece was to be Adam Schumann. Hall notes, "The fact that we had real people who went through this added a weight and an importance to the work that we were doing, that we needed to get it right."

Having spent months working with Navy SEALs while researching and crafting American Sniper, Hall felt the experience would give him a leg up in approaching the members of the 2-16. He recalls, "I phoned Adam and introduced myself. It was an interesting process. There was a 'getting-to-know-you' challenge and a trust barrier that I wasn't totally prepared for it. In talking to the Navy SEALs, I'd come to understand the war through their eyes. But moving on to a different branch of the military in the same war wasn't the natural progression I had assumed it would be. I had to unlearn what I thought I knew, and start over. It's another language and another take on things-everyone's war is different, branch to branch, battalion to battalion, soldier to soldier, they don't fight the same war. Tactics, language and demands are different, but more than that, I came to understand how everyone's war is personal. It belongs to them and them alone."

Further contact with the soldiers brought a heavy realization, and brutal honesty: "In my next call, I wasn't prepared for what this guy had been through and how that bore out on his daily existence. I asked a question that contained an incorrect assumption, it didn't go over well...and he let me know it. I immediately felt unqualified to tell this story, and that I had been insensitive. I considered dropping out of the film because I didn't want to be responsible for causing more pain to someone who'd already been through so much. Then I realized that if I walked out at that point, there was a chance nobody else would take the reins and that this story would never get told. I also realized there was reluctance on my part to get too personal with these guys; I had gotten close to Chris on Sniper, and his death affected me profoundly. So, I tried to use that loss to understand them better. What had they lost? And what did that loss do to them, and what did that feel like? I dove back in, headfirst."

Hall went back to the men with an openness that began their trust-building. "I said that I didn't understand everything they'd been through, that I had no idea, and that the story I'd previously told had been much different. We began building it from the ground up there, and they walked me through all of these moments in their stories, every second of the trauma that still resonates inside them. It's a hard place to get to and a dark place to go; there is guilt and remorse and a tremendous level of emotion. I did my best to adopt and try relive every moment of it with them. It was tough. But I came out of it with this hope that these guys can heal-they need someone to hear them, and understand wrap their arms about them and validate the experience. Still, they can grow through this. I saw that first-hand, and I'm forever grateful they trusted me with it."

Hall came to comprehend a sense of the whiplash these soldiers experienced in shifting from deployment to civilian life. "They are coming from these experiences filled with adrenalin and anxiety...and importance, a sense of purpose and mission," the filmmaker observes. "Then, they step back into this world where a lot of that is stripped-they're taken from their brothers, there is no mission and they're separated from everything they knew. We subtract all of these things from them, then shove them out into what no longer seems like the real world, because it's not their world anymore.

"When we talk about an invisible wound," Hall continues, "we're talking about trauma. When it occurs, it's seared into the brain like a muscle memory. These traumatic seconds, the images they witnessed, are triggered by sights, sounds or gestures. They say trauma destroys the fabric of time because, after trauma, time doesn't just move forward-you move in circles, sucked back to these traumatic events, then dumped back into the future, only to be bounced back again. That's the struggle with someone like Adam or Solo, who comes home with this entire other life they've lived-this life of stakes and purpose that is outside of everything his family knows. The family has heard some of these soldiers' names, but they don't know them; they know some have died, but not how or why. So the soldier comes home with this whole other existence. The family expects them to be the same people they've sent off to war-the dad, the husband, but there's this shadow life, there in the periphery. Much of this is invisible to the family-and I wanted to dramatize that, to put the audience in that seat. When we meet Adam, we know little about what happened to him or the men in his unit; but on his return, the names of people we haven't met and questions about things we didn't see suddenly present themselves and take the shape of a kind of mystery many of these families wade through. From that unknown, we come to understand the purgatory of the soldiers return."

Kilik underscores the point and adds, "I grew up in the Vietnam era, and every night on television, we saw what was happening-things that are not necessarily being shown now. I felt the need to explore-to do what I could to shine a light on them."

Listening to Adam Schumann recount his first meeting with Finkel illustrates just how much these experiences influence a soldier's perception. Schumann tells, "He was always around-he was the fly on the wall, never intrusive. Right before I was medevacked home, I was packing my stuff and he walked in my room and introduced himself. Being sent home away from my guys, not being able to finish my job and the mission and basically falling apart when everyone needed me was a huge guilt trip. Now, I've got this reporter coming in my room, and I assume he's there to capture this shitty moment in my life. I almost told him to get the f- out of my room. But instead I asked, 'I suppose you're here to cover my evacuation and want to know why I'm getting sent home?' He said, 'No, not at all. I keep hearing your name, every time I ask about who I should talk to this in battalion. I wanted to meet the guy everybody's talking about.' It blew me away. I immediately felt drawn to David, and almost guilty that I had made those assumptions about him. He walked me to the medevac helicopter that day in Iraq.

"He followed up a couple of times with me," Schumann continues. "I never would have thought in a million years that he'd come to me a year later and say, I want to do a follow-up. I think the story isn't done yet-what you and everybody is going through needs to be captured for all of us. I didn't have anything to lose. I trusted him."

Schumann assumed that Finkel would "show up for a weekend and then disappear." He (and the others) were genuinely surprised at the amount of time Finkel dedicated to life as an observer of their lives. "He was there for the fights, the car rides. In the middle of the night, when I couldn't get my shit together and get to sleep, I would go fishing-and he would always tell me, whatever you do, just give me a call. He was a trooper. This is the middle of winter in Kansas, in the middle of the night; it's 28 degrees, and I'm going fishing. I'm standing on the bank of a river for two or three hours, and he's just sitting behind me, asking me questions, talking to me and writing. At the time, I didn't feel comfortable talking to the therapist I'd just met at the VA, my wife, friends or family. It was David who I can honestly say got me through a lot of shit after I got back."

And yet, all of the good will and trust generated between the men was not enough to compel Schumann to read Finkel's second book, which opens with Schumann and a mention of an especially traumatic episode with a comrade. For Adam, it was too much. He explains, "I literally put it down, and I've never read it. I lived it; I don't need to read it. It is his perception, his unbiased version of all of our stories."

Still in touch with Finkel, Schumann later received a text saying that a movie version was in the works and that the screenwriter would be getting in touch. The soldier received a voicemail from Hall. "Some Hollywood guy calling, and I laughed it off-what is this guy going to be like? I didn't know what to think," recalls Schumann.

A first conversation ensued, and the two men stayed in touch, exchanging question-and-answer texts and emails over the course of months. Then, a break in the communication occurred, during the American Sniper production. Later, Hall reached back out to Schumann, who recalls that Hall was "like a dog with a bone. Jason said that they were still doing this, and I'm like, 'What's with you? Let it go.'"

Flash forward, through months of more in-depth discussions, "And still," recalls Schumann, "in the back of my mind, I'm thinking about how many ideas get thrown around Hollywood that actually never get put on film. Then, all of a sudden, it seems it's been right there in front of my face the whole time, and I'm involved in it...and it's this giant thing."

Actor as Portal-The Way into Schumann's Story

"What're they doing for ya now? Gotta make your own way now." -Dante in Thank You for Your Service

Hall sought to cast an actor with the same type of appeal as the reticent hero at the center of the screenplay, giving moviegoers an identifiable viewpoint. The director offers, "Miles Teller has got that everyman quality to him, but at the same time, he is someone who has lived-he has suffered loss that you can read in his eyes, and the scars still mark his face. Adam was a good soldier, he was brave and fearless, and loved what he did. He loved to fight alongside these guys, until he didn't. Miles brings that honor, that everyman's dignity to this, and he brings the weight of loss."

Jon Kilik asserts, "Miles is strong and physical, with a sensitivity, depth and humanity to him, very similar to Adam. As well, he is very hard working...did his homework. His build-matched with that humanity-is something pretty special-and we thought it a perfect fit."

Teller was aware of Schumann's initial reluctance to participate with Finkel, then Hall, and respected that the man he would be portraying on screen needed space to get used to him as well. The performer comments, "Adam had a healthy fear of what was going to happen, because it felt like he was basically signing his life away. There are moments in the book when he's not a perfect person-David showed what these guys were like when they came home from war, which wasn't always the best version of themselves. Iwas very sensitive to this piece of material and re-creating Adam's personal life on screen. Iabsolutely had somenerves flying up to meet him. But those feelings were quickly dissolved as we all got to sit in Adam's apartment, hang out and share stories with each other."

Actor and soldier swapped stories the first night, which stretched into the next day of hunting. Schumann recalls, "Miles impressed me because he started asking me all the right questions immediately. He wasn't asking stuff that didn't need to be asked. He asked questions that I would have asked-and I appreciated how much he wanted to get into it. Next day, I threw them in the truck and we did a little hunting, and talked some more. That night, my uncle and a good friend of mine joined in, which gave Jason and Miles the chance to talk to them about who I was before the army and before I deployed. I used them as a barometer on Miles and Jason. I felt confident that their hearts and minds were in the right place, and they were going to take this thing the direction it needed to go."

Teller comments, "Adam was an open book; he was more than willing to share everything. Very early on, Adam said there was no question that was off-limits. To me, this story is about that brotherhood among these guys-the inner circle, the fraternity."

Teller's experience with the military is informed by a history of family and friends in the service. He says, "My grandfather was a Marine. My grandmother's brother was a Marine who took the beaches of Normandy. My uncle has a Silver Star from the Army-he was in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Some of my closest friends are Navy SEALs. It takes a certain kind of a person to hear gunfire and walk towards the bullets. All of the qualities that I hold dear-loyalty, bravery, heroism, dignity-these guys hold as absolute truths."

Schumann returned to Kansas after three deployments, to a wife, Saskia, and two children. It is into their world that this altered version of husband/father Adam returns. Hall matter-of-factly states, "The women in this film are the heart of the movie. When these soldiers come home, it's the women who are the heroes. It's the women who are the ones who are asked to open up the home and welcome this person back in...and make them feel, at once, useful, loved and like they never left. That's a challenge."

"Haley Bennett is from the Midwest, and to her role she brought that sensibility of an everyday woman who has been through something," continues the writer/director. "She is real and raw. In welcoming her husband home, you understand through Haley's eyes what she's thinking and feeling with every moment. That roots us in her experience. Through her, we realize the man coming through the door has changed. How is she going to embrace this new unfamiliar side of him, and save her family?"

For Teller, it is in those situations where the film distinguishes itself. He explains, "We're dealing with things on a familial level. We're showing what it's like to get men back who are broken, and maybe they're not the best husbands or fathers anymore. They're different. We're showing them coming to terms with that and the process of trying to get help, with and without the VA, and that can be frustrating."

For Kilik, Bennett was a terrific choice, with the inherent qualities of the actress dovetailing perfectly with the script's character. "Haley put herself on tape for submission for the role, and it was the most authentic, real, emotional work. That sensitivity and vulnerability, mixed with strength, was evident from the start. We were lucky to have a studio behind us, deferring to us to handle this project correctly without pressure to look at what might make a good marketing package. At the time, Haley was not yet as recognizable as she is now-but she was perfect to play Saskia."

Bennett immediately felt for the character. The performer says, "Saskia was somebody I understood right away, and I was invested in what she was going through. I found myself rooting for her and wanting her to win. I realized that this wasn't just about Adam; it wasn't just his story. It was her journey and her struggles, too."

Like Teller, Bennett's familiarity with the lives of servicemen comes via family: "My grandfather was in the Army, my father was in the Navy and my childhood boyfriend became a Navy SEAL. It's interesting to learn about the effects of the war on these soldiers, because it pieces together my understanding of my father. By untangling these characters, we can understand the lives of these soldiers and the reality of what they go through. The tragedy doesn't end when the deployment is over-it comes home with them and touches the lives of their wives, children, families, everyone around them. I love how Jason's script focuses on this process, and makes for some loaded situations."

Hall gives due credit to Finkel for his commitment and keen observation when he says, "David lived with Adam and Saskia through this transition process, and that made it easy for me to dramatize it. And the actors did a wonderful job of bringing a humanity to those moments, because it isn't the lines of the dialogue that holds the meaning-it's what they're doing, their behavior. There's a lot of testing that goes on; she's looking to see if this is really her husband who came home, how he's changed, what's different."

Finding the Supporting Cast

"We had some bad days, bro. Maybe that's all they were-just bad days. We had some good days, too." -Tausolo Aeiti in Thank You for Your Service

For Hall and Kilik, it was always about honoring the men and women who'd allowed Finkel to catalogue their journeys to and from war. Kilik summarizes their approach to every facet of the project when he says, "We promised ourselves that we were going to do all of this correctly-whether it was the casting, the shoot, the longer post-production process-and we weren't going to settle for anything less than this story, and these people, deserved."

To play the role of Tausolo "Solo" Aeiti, filmmakers took submissions from around the globe-yet another testament to their commitment. Hall expands, "Beulah Koale comes to this role with the same heritage as Solo, but also, he brings that same dignity to this guy's suffering. You can see it in his eyes-he has a nakedness about his experience that I find relatable. When we found him, out of New Zealand, we had auditioned 1,500 actors for the part. He sent in a self-tape, we did a couple of phone interviews and then he flew out to audition. Twice. It was very important to me to find someone who shared Aeiti's Samoan background. That nationality, that ethnicity, that pride of tribal heritage-it was all integral to who this guy is. It meant a tremendous amount to the real Tausolo Aeti that we went out and found a Samoan actor to play him. And that grew a deeper level of trust with Tausolo. But it was Beulah who convinced him to come out to Atlanta and be a part of the film, not me. Beulah earned his trust quickly, and they became friends. Having Tausolo in on the process was a gift."

Kilik adds, "Beulah brought authenticity. He brought physicality. He brought a complexity, because there is just a lot going on there, and you aren't sure where it comes from. It just all fit what is written-and then he added his own natural pieces, because he is so similar physically and culturally to Solo. It was good bedrock, a jumping-off point, and then he worked extremely hard with Jason to sharpen his acting skills."

For the newcomer, it was all way more than he ever expected. Koale confesses, "I almost didn't audition. I was going through a rough time in my life and-another American audition? I thought, 'Who's going to pick me?' I guess I brought what I was going through to the audition, and Jason saw something. During our first Skype session, we really clicked. He works in a way that I like to work-raw, authentic, and he gave me permission to use the stuff that was going on in my head to help with the work."

The actor brought training from time in a theater company, "where you work from the real." He spent a lot of time with Solo, delving into the soldier's experiences, during and after the war, particularly the ramifications of the IED explosion. "You have to build those memories around the explosion, the way it feels and looks, the smell-all of it." Following the incident, Tausolo was regarded as a hero among the soldiers-then, back home, things were vastly different. Koale elaborates, "You're home, and you're no one. You can't find a job. You don't know where anything is, and you don't know where you parked your car at the supermarket. Those worlds are totally different. That's why he wanted to go back-he felt like he was on this planet and no one understood who he was or what he'd been through. You feel more at home with your brothers in a war.

"What I learned in training [for the film] is that you suffer in silence," Koale recounts. "Solo took that to the extreme: He didn't tell anyone about these dreams he was having, and he ended up imploding. It's like being in a different country without understanding what's going on around you...but it's actually your country. It's the best research any actor can get, being surround by the people you are playing."

For Scott Haze, cast as Michael Emory, he took his search for character truth right to the door of the man he was to portray. Hall supplies, "Scott went above and beyond-he visited Emory and spent a week with him. He was able to communicate with him in a way that I was never able to. He also spent weeks in a wheelchair at the VA, learning about all of the recovery processes Emory had been through. He came away with a psychic understanding of the character that was remarkable."

Haze's experience with the military began in his teens, when-following repeated oustings from a series of other schools-he was shipped off to boot camp at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas. The actor says, "I endured massive amounts of hazing and was beat up quite a bit. But I didn't understand what it is like to serve until this film. The glamorization of warfare-there is none of that. This is showing another aspect of the experience."

For Emory, his decision to join the service was fueled by a desire to better himself. Haze reflects, "He signed up because his life was in a position where the Army provided him a way to get out of where he was. He wanted a new life-he enlisted, and got shot in the head, which is not what he signed up for."

For a large part of Hall's cast, the roles they are assuming are based on the real men and women featured in Finkel's non-fiction book. That is not the case for one pivotal character. Per Hall: "Joe Cole is playing a character who will remain anonymous. I based him on a story I heard from a widow about a friend of hers. It wasn't in the book but it's a story that's all too common, so I built it into the screenplay. Joe brings a fierceness and toughness to this character named Will Waller. Joe is British, but you wouldn't know it from his work in the film." In a moment of levity, Hall reveals: "We didn't allow him to speak with his British accent, ever, or he had to do pushups."

Similar to Bennett and Koale, Cole was compelled by the power of the project and its message to "self-tape" and submit himself for consideration. Kilik recounts, "He did possibly the character's toughest scene, when he goes to the bank to confront his former fiancée. It was incredibly moving and powerful-we got the chills watching. His connection to the material was undeniable. He brought a depth and a fragility that were essential to the role."

Cole comments, "Coming from the U.K., having a slightly different perspective on the military genre, doing an Army movie can be quite a taboo subject. I wanted to do something human and emotional. That's what got me about this film. Jason's script taught me about what these guys go through-I feel like it's told in a truthful, understanding and empathetic way. It looks at the truth behind all of this.

"My character has been blown up seven times," Cole goes on. "He tries to make it into a bit of a joke-a bravado sort of thing, saying, 'Look at me, I've been blown up seven times and I'm still here.' As his story progresses, we see that these things haunt him. That juxtaposition is quite interesting, between making fun of it and being almost proud of having been in fire and survived-contrasted with how it actually affects you, how it actually affects your brain. All my character wants is to come home and walk into somebody's arms. To not have that there? Imagine how difficult that must be."

To experience that ultimate loss is central to the story of Amanda Doster, wife of Sergeant James Doster, who is killed just before he is scheduled to return home on leave. Hall discusses the selection of actress Amy Schumer for the part, "Amy brought a seriousness to this role that I didn't know she was capable of. When she came in, she was raw and ready. There was a sense of her being present and carrying this grief, and it was palpable in her performance. It was there when she auditioned and she brought it to the set, having put in a tremendous amount of preparation for the role. It's an extremely key role, as she delivers probably the defining lines of the film in a scene with Miles as Adam."

Kilik notes that he was surprised that an actress primarily known for comedy would be able to plumb such depths of drama. He says, "Amy really made her interest in the project known, but we weren't quite sure if she would fit in and become part of the fabric of the story. She came and gave an amazing read, and she was extremely willing to work with us to create a look different from her norm. She just became Amanda, took on a different physicality and worked hard to help create an amazing transformation into this character. She is a very important part of the piece."

Much of the litmus testing that registers the changes in Tausolo Aeiti are supplied by his wife, Alea; fellow New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes was assigned the part. Koale enthuses, "Keisha and I are really good friends, and I was stoked that she was going to play my wife, because we already have this chemistry. Back in New Zealand, we were cast in a film as love interests-it didn't end up shooting-but we spent a couple of years getting to know each other. And having two Kiwis in the film is just awesome. I was like, 'Man, we're going to take over the world!'"

Castle-Hughes comments, "It's nice to work alongside someone you know so well-we created the chemistry of a husband and wife quite easily. In the story, we got together when we were very young, and then, after his latest deployment, he comes home a very different man than the one that Alea married. It's about her trying to navigate that and gauge how the rest of their life is going to play out. This story of the soldiers, is also very much about the wives. Although they haven't been through what the men have, they've also been on their own journeys, dealing with life alone, or as a single mother. By the time the men do return, both of them have changed, sometimes almost to the point of being like strangers. In addition to the solders' side of the story, Jason has written rich female characters, and everyone is trying to deal with things the way that they are in the here and now."

Kilik is quick to thank DreamWorks for allowing them to cast the film with actors "who didn't always have a name or the experience, but did have the honesty and authenticity." Thank You for Your Service is also full of characters who appear for perhaps only a scene or two, but who greatly impact the story and shape the lives of the returning warriors. These include: Brad Beyer as the fallen Sergeant James Doster, a kind leader who steps in for one of his men; Omar J. Dorsey as former soldier Dante, who now commands a small army of criminals back home; Sean Bridger as Sergeant Mozer, manning a stop along Solo Aeiti's endless sojourn to complete VA paperwork; Erin Darke as Tracey, Will Waller's vanishing fiancee; and Jake Weber as Colonel Plymouth, who compliments Sergeant Schumann while refusing to see the man named Adam standing before him.

Again, Kilik: "DreamWorks was incredible to support the vision we had for this. Without that kind of support, it's enough of a challenge to try and make a film like this one, even with movie stars. Aside from Miles, we have a group of discoveries or lesser known actors on the rise. We have the perfect cast, the one we wanted from the start."

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