How does an actor with no military experience portray a veteran who lives with PTSD?

Andresia Moseley felt overwhelmed when she accepted the lead role in the upcoming production of Speed Killed My Cousin at USF Tampa Theatre.

The character’s name is Debra, and Debra represents an African American woman—a young woman—20-something that is just coming back from Iraq, and she is from a family that has previous experience in the military,” said Moseley. “It’s about Debra, but it’s also about generational influence of the military and how a lot of young people end up going as a result of family [military] history.”

Moseley described her character’s PTSD as threefold–she has PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Moral Injuries.

But how does an actor who does not live with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and has no military experience truly portray a veteran who does?

“The idea of emotionally [connecting]—there’s theatre, there’s acting and there’s acting to be believable,” she explained. “In order to be believable, I actually had to go to a [mental and emotional] place of a lot of veterans that I never really knew anything about. I didn’t know that they dealt with those issues.”

Moseley’s understanding of PTSD was limited to what she had seen on the news. She knew she had to seek authentic sources to understand PTSD and truly empathize with veterans with PTSD. She interviewed many female combat veterans and watched graphic videos of war combat. “I had to watch people get blown up and killed…and body parts everywhere and IEDs…just the whole thing was overwhelming,” she described, choking back tears.

Moseley was disheartened by how media and documentaries oversimplify a complex problem. “It kind of reads as, ‘Hey, there’s some women in the military–some folks trying to rape them or something and you know, she’s fine now,’ and that’s really how a lot of the female documentaries ran. They were very short, and they spent a whole lot of time on the guys and a very brief time on the women.”

Moseley’s character, Debra, deals with some very dark places. What pushes people to suicide and what happens to veterans transitioning from combat to civilian life are issues Moseley had to emotionally visit. Through her studies for Debra, she went through pain she had not yet experienced and discovered new things about herself.

“I was in Arizona and had the pleasure of meeting actual female veterans that were actually in combat and dealt with that. And to hear firsthand accounts—the biggest thing that triggered my mind was why do you stay? So you get in and this is not what you thought it was going to be. The common mind says Why don’t you just leave?”

Moseley didn’t mean physically leave, but rather mentally disconnect. Through her interviews, Moseley learned that the camaraderie among veterans both protects them and makes it difficult to return to a civilian mindset.

Moseley performs in Speed Killed My Cousin Thursday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m. at USF Tampa located in Theatre 1. For tickets: Ticket Master Art 2 Action .

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