THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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 them...to
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
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
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
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,"
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
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
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,
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
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
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 fiancĂ©e. 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
"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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