Miles Teller on Honoring Veterans and Portraying PTSD in Thank You For Your Service

November 13, 2017

Photo Source: Universal Pictures

In Miles Teller’s new biopic, Thank You For Your Service, Teller portrays real-life serviceman Adam Schumann as he comes home from the Iraq War only to face more hardships at home. Teller worked directly with Schumann in order to accurately portray his character. When Teller, Schumann, and director Jason Hall sat down for an interview with the Voice, they all noted the importance of accurately representing PTSD.

“I just hope that [the movie]  invokes a conversation and charges people up to speak about the forgotten soldier,” Teller said. “Once the guy gets home, you don’t see him in uniform, but that trauma’s with him for the rest of his life, and that’s happening to our youth, and it’s a very complex issue.”

Thank You For Your Service, which was released on Oct. 27, focuses on Schumann and his friends’ experiences coming back from war, including dealing with PTSD and the Veteran’s Affairs Department. It also honors those who have fought for their country.

“We didn’t approach this like a PTSD story,” Hall said. “We approached this as a personal story of these three guys coming home and the struggles that they went through.”

And to Teller, the story was doubly personal since he was working directly with the man he was portraying.

“A lot of my friends are [in the] military, and I felt like this was something I’m really getting to,” Teller said. “I’ve been through some stuff in my own life that was pretty tough and traumatizing, and I felt a connection to Adam’s character.”

“At first, I honestly didn’t want to do [the movie] because I felt like even acting like I had PTSD and been to a war was unethical. But the more I thought about it, the more that kind of flipped and I said ‘yeah, this is your story man and you need to do,’ or ‘this is an opportunity to really sink your teeth into, and if you do a good enough job, you can hopefully affect people in a way that I think people should be affected.’”

Both Teller and Hall saw Thank You For Your Service as a way to spread awareness to the public on the different forms PTSD can take and the ways soldiers can cope with it coming back from war. Both wanted to move the societal rhetoric directed toward veterans to a more purposeful path.

“I hope that audiences will come away with a little bit better understanding of what these guys have gone through,” Hall said. “I don’t feel that there’s a conversation going on right now. I think it’s a ‘thanks a lot for your service’ and we kind of move on and everybody excuses themselves from it. But I think we have to find a better way to welcome our warriors home.”

One of the main plot lines in the movie is how the soldiers deal with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and how this service intends to help soldiers transition back into society. The backlog and inefficiencies of the VA are constantly apparent. The main characters have to go back and forth to the office, have to wait in impossibly long lines to see a representative, and are not treated with the respect that they deserve. Schumann’s character makes the choice to give up his spot at a treatment facility for veterans with PTSD in order to help out his friend who is in greater need.

“PTSD is different for everybody, but I don’t think any one person that ever had it or has experience with it would watch this [movie] and go ‘that’s just not how it is,’” Schumann said. “I think it blanketed very well and covered all the bases that people deal with.”

In the end, Teller noted how much work went into portraying Schumann accurately and with respect. Aside from spending a lot of time with the real-life veteran, Teller read a lot of books on PTSD and even participated in a real military boot camp.

“This movie stuck with me a lot,” Teller said. “You do have to sacrifice yourself with over these roles if you want to do them justice.”

Claire Goldberg
is the Voice's former editoral board chair and halftime leisure editor. She "says a lot of funny things," according to Emma Francois.

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