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Exclusive Interview with Elisabeth Röhm on SGT. Will Gardner

If you are anything like me, you will always and forever know Elisabeth Röhm as Kate from Angel. Odds are you are more likely to know her as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn. And there are even newbies who would simply recognize her from her most current work on The Oath. But while Elisabeth built a career through her work in big TV fandoms such as these (as well as Heroes, The Last Ship, and others), the multi-talented actress is also the author of a memoir (Baby Steps), writes a blog for People Magazine, and has appeared in a number of major films (American Hustle, Joy, countless others). We got to sit down with Elisabeth to talk about her most recent film, SGT. Will Gardner.

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Pure Fandom: So I want to focus questions on SGT. Will Gardner for the most part … but …  as a huge fan of Angel, I have to bring it up.

Elisabeth Röhm: Oh, it was amazing. I look back think about how young we all were. But working with David Boreanaz was such a thrill. And I learned something [from working on Angel] that I took with me forever, through every job, which is: you have to be allies of your fellow cast mates. And David and I were. We were buddies. We loved working together. And we were really loyal to each other. I was obviously very happy to join Law and Order, but very sad to move from L.A. to New York to not be able to do Angel anymore. Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt [creators of Angel] were incredible producers and incredibly creative. And I would love to work with both of them again. So I’m glad you liked the show.

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PF: I did. I enjoyed where it started, as sort of this detective show. And honestly I feel like when Kate left that sort of forced their hand to take it in some different directions, which were also interesting. But I loved that first season and a half or so a lot.

ER: Are you saying the show is not good after I left it? Because that’s okay. Thank you.

PF: Exactly. That show just went all downhill after Kate.

But let’s focus on SGT. Will Gardner. Can you give us a quick snippet of what the movie is about and what your role is?

ER: Well I don’t want to take away from the artistry of it and say it’s a movie with a mission, but it’s a movie with a mission. Proceeds from the film are going to Higher Ground, Warriors Heart, and Special Operations Charity Network. So I think that for all of us, and obviously Max [Martini: writer, director, star of the film], it’s about having compassion for our warriors and our veterans and our armed forces. To give them the support and the respect that they deserve when they come back home. And the main character that [Max Martini] wrote for himself experiences PTSD, becomes lonely and delusional, and ends up homeless with his family life ripped from him. I play his ex-wife. And he goes on a mission to sort of try to put his life back together.

Dermot Mulroney plays my husband, and I’m torn between these two men, still loving this person who’s forever changed from having served our country. It’s a really painful part of the story, but the story is also very beautiful.

PF: You mentioned several people in the cast. Omari Hardwick and Dermot Mulroney and Robert Patrick and Gary Sinise. What impressed me was that many of these roles are very quick, almost cameos.

ER: Yeah, I mean really it Max’s movie, and he surrounded himself with his friends and colleagues, which is amazing. That’s why I love independent film. Obviously we love our fancy glossy TV shows and big movies. But the little the little engine that could in the heart of the indie is where great filmmaking continues to bud. And I think he did something very very cool and inspiring, so when he called his friends and said come be in this movie with me, we all did it.

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PF: There were a lot of a lot of themes happening in the movie beyond just the very obvious plight of a soldier returning home. There is a lot about homelessness in general. And there’s a lot to be said about your character’s struggle with remarriage and sharing a child with a previous spouse.

ER: Well, I think I was really really drawn to that feeling. I think everybody has felt in their life where maybe they loved somebody but it really wasn’t right. The relationship really couldn’t work. And there’s a sort of sadness and mourning of that situation. I think it’s very universal.

You know there are so many experiences everybody’s been through that were almost situations. Things that almost happened, moments for you when you almost got what you were looking for. You almost had love. Almost achieved things that fell through. You know is she living her best life the way she dreamed it up? No. But she’s doing the best she can. And I think most people relate to that. That’s universal.

And there’s a there’s really an overall theme of the movie which is to not forget the forgotten. Whether it’s soldiers or the homeless or even people we’ve loved in our past. Those that are forgotten, let’s remember them again. And that theme is in every aspect of the storytelling.

PF: I wanted to ask about one of your scenes that really stuck with me. I’ll call it the dugout scene where your character is talking to Max’s character through the fence of a dugout on a baseball field. Very raw. Very emotional scene. One that I hope only took one take.

ER: Oh, I agree. It was a magical scene. And Max and I really had never fully met. We had a good friend in common, but the real first time I met him in person was shooting that scene. But no we didn’t shoot it for long. It happened instantly. And we always say to each other we gotta work together again because we really are capable of catching lightning in a bottle between the two of us with great chemistry.

PF: So one last question. You’ve been connected to a lot of big fandoms, like Law and Order, Angel, Heroes, and The Last Ship Is that a weird thing to live with.

ER: No. I think it’s amazing, and I feel very proud of the work that I’ve done in movies. But I think if somebody feels like, to them, I’ll always be Kate from Angel or Sabrina [from Law and Order], then one thing I did meant something to them. It endears them to me, and I’m just grateful to have any fans at all.

PF: Well, that’s a beautiful answer.

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Matt Coleman

Matt Coleman writes mysteries, comedies, and irreverent analyses of pop culture. He is the author of JUGGLING KITTENS and GRAFFITI CREEK, both of which have too many bad words for his mom's liking. You can find him at mattcolemanbooks.com.

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