Eloise Mumford talks The Right Stuff and Chicago Fire.
Eloise Mumford’s Chicago Fire character had some unhealthy relationships, but now in The Right Stuff, she’s playing one of the most famous spouses in American history.
The actress, who recurred as Hope Jacquinot on Fire, stars as Trudy Cooper in the new Disney+ series that details the rise to fame of the Mercury Seven astronauts—and their wives, who were also thrust into the spotlight. Trudy has a contentious marriage to Gordon Cooper (played by Colin O’Donoghue), in part because she herself is a capable pilot but her career has never been able to flourish the way her husband’s has.
One Chicago Center reconnected with Eloise to ask her about portraying Trudy Cooper, what she enjoyed about being part of this epic series, and if she thinks that Hope actually turned over a new leaf when she last appeared on Chicago Fire.
Check out our interview below and then watch The Right Stuff now exclusively on Disney+.
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One Chicago Center: What attracted you to The Right Stuff initially? As it’s a different role than most of what we’ve seen you do on TV.
Eloise Mumford: The pilot script, written by Mark Lafferty, was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. Between that and the opportunity to play Trudy Cooper, who I fell so deeply in love with, and getting to work with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, I was beyond thrilled to get to be a part of this project. Not to mention: space!
OCC: This is the first time we’ve seen you play a real person, so what was that part of the project like for you? Did you approach it differently than the fictional characters you’ve played?
EM: I felt a huge responsibility to honor Trudy Cooper in my portrayal of her—and honor her by bringing to life the full complexity of her as a human, not just as a wife, not just as a pilot, not just as a mother.
I researched everything I could about her—finding photos, news clips, anecdotes, interviews, and every detail I could. And then I went to work figuring out the things that would have brought her joy: mainly her love of flying and the female pilots who would’ve inspired her.
Getting inspired myself by these phenomenal women made me feel close to Trudy in a way I can’t quite describe, and is something I will carry with me forever.
OCC: That’s an important point—that Trudy was herself a pilot and that made her different from the other Mercury Seven spouses. How did that aspect of her life impact your take on the character?
EM: Trudy was a tremendous pilot and it was so important to me that not only did we understand her talent at it, but also her towering love of it. Like so many women, especially at the time, she was juggling strong societal expectations of tending to the home with fierce ambition and passion for something very much not in the home.
I felt this viscerally: the difference of her energy when she was doing house things versus her energy when she was out doing what she loved: a coming alive which I hope feels deeply familiar to anyone who has experienced unbridled passion. Heartbreakingly, because of the time, Trudy was not given the opportunity to pursue to her dream in the same way men were and it was incredibly important to me to portray the unspeakable pain of that.
It’s crucial to examine and expose this era of our history in both its glory and also its reality: that women and people of color were continually denied access and opportunities. We have come a long way, but we still have a long, long way to go and seeing this reflected clearly is part of doing the work of going forward and creating the kind of world we should all want to live in.
OCC: Trudy Cooper’s skill and ambition also made for a different dynamic in her marriage to Gordon Cooper. How would you characterize that relationship, and how did you work with Colin to portray the full breadth of their marriage?
EM: I adore Colin, and getting to bring to life a complicated, gut-wrenching, passionate, broken dynamic with him was truly so fun. It was really important to us to portray the complexity of this relationship: that it could hold great love and also great anger, both moments of true respect and also utter, heartbreaking disrespect. I think this is much more in line with the way actual human relationships work; they are messy and aching and full of contradictions. We wanted to bring that all to life.
OCC: What was your biggest challenge in the role? Anything that stood out to you about The Right Stuff as you were filming?
EM: I just wanted to badly to do Trudy justice. To honor the sacrifices she made, doing things that must have hurt her heart, her pride, her career, in order for Gordo to be a part of the space program. She took care of her daughters in a way I aspire to when I have children: showing them through her own life that no matter the limitations placed on you, you keep going, you keep fighting, you keep flying. It was the greatest challenge to step into her tremendous shoes and do my best to fill them.
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OCC: Including yourself and Colin, The Right Stuff has such a talented cast but also a massive cast. Anyone you loved working with—or who you would have loved to work with more?
EM: Working with Colin was just plain dreamy. We just loved playing together—and that’s what it felt like, in the best way possible. Two actors, ready to see wherever the moment took us, living in it so intimately and fiercely. We spent a fair amount of time off screen laughing our faces off and then a fair amount of time onscreen aching or crying. He’s just a wonderful human, and I felt really lucky to get to call him my partner on screen.
And honestly, the whole group was just the best. It felt like winning the lottery to get to work with such a wonderful, kind, talented group of people. I spent a lot of time dreaming up scenarios where Trudy would have to interact with everyone because I love them so much.
Does she take a road trip with John Glenn so I could act with Patrick Adams, who became one of my dearest friends? Or maybe she and Gus start racing cars so I could giggle away with Michael Trotter. Or maybe she and Gilruth start working on aerodynamics together so I could just hang with the rad Patrick Fischler all day. It felt like an embarrassment of riches to get to be with this whole cast, both on screen and off.
OCC: This series is so epic, from its scope to its casting. What is Eloise Mumford going to leave The Right Stuff with?
EM: Getting the opportunity to learn more about this moment in history and the breathtaking achievements of it was something I will never forget. While filming, we had the opportunity to go to Cape Canaveral and stand on the actual launch pads where these rockets lifted off, we got to walk the same beaches these people did, got to experience the same wonder they did witnessing everyone coming together to make something impossible possible.
I was very moved by this part of it: witnessing the sacrifice, the perseverance, the dedication, the risk, the passion it takes to accomplish something great. How ordinary, flawed, hopeful people can come together to change history.
It makes me think of our current times, and how important it is to all join together to affect change. How important it is to do the most patriotic thing for our future: vote!
OCC: The last time we spoke was when you were on Chicago Fire, and audiences were surprised to see Hope pop up again in season 8. What was it like for you to come back, and do you think that Hope actually changed at all?
EM: I can’t tell you how much I loved working with the cast and crew of Chicago Fire. Getting the call to return was like a birthday present come early, or a return to a beloved summer camp.
Hope was such a twisted, troubled character and getting to explore how hard it is to really change was such a fun thing to return to Chicago and do. Mostly it was just the best to get to hug all the actors on that show who I really adore.
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