LOS ANGELES -- As one of the "12 Strong," the dozen Special Forces soldiers sent into Afghanistan soon after 9/11, Trevante Rhodes can add another ensemble film that's raising his profile.
The 27-year-old, an All-American at the University of Texas, had his breakthrough in "Moonlight," last year's Oscar-winning Best Picture.
In that three-part gay drama, Rhodes dominated the final section as a recently released prisoner finally able to accept and express love.
That's another world from his gung-ho soldier in "12 Strong," a true story of an emergency American military mission that was only recently declassified.
Chris Hemsworth stars as the mission captain; Michael Shannon plays the chief warrant officer; and Michael Pena is a sergeant who gets laughs when forced to ride a horse through mountainous terrain.
While filming in Albuquerque, N.M., Rhodes learned the film's distinction between a warrior and a soldier.
"A warrior," he said, "does it with their heart and soldiers with their mind. That to me is the most honest form of reaction. Most of the time we lead with our mind: We think, we make mistakes.
"It was an honor to embody someone who I felt was a warrior."
Authenticity was key in making "12 Strong." Several veterans of the mission and an ex-Navy SEAL were on set.
The cast, including Hemsworth, had four weeks of military training prior to filming to gain insight into the Special Forces mentality.
"These men don't see themselves as heroes. They went and bonded with the Afghan people," said producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
"There are so many tribes and they fight each other. These 12 men got in there and got them to fight together. That's what they were trained to do.
"We know about this thanks to Doug Stanton (and his book 'Horse Soldiers'), who found this story because it was declassified. This is just one mission, there are so many others we know nothing about."
"My hope," said Rhodes, "is that people take away the camaraderie and see how important being loving and open and connected to people is."
After 9/11, he added, "my understanding of what anybody in the Middle East stood for was bad and that is so ignorant. This story shows the truth -- and it's amazing."
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