Living & Entertainment

Olympia actress plays Coug in ‘Fifty Shades’ supporting role

The movie adaptation of EL James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” – one of the most anticipated films of 2015 – opens in cineplexes this weekend.

While critics generally have been unimpressed, fans broke online pre-sale records for an R-rated movie. Boxoffice.com predicted the movie will pull in $95 million during the four-day weekend.

Bad reviews don’t bother 28-year-old Olympia native Eloise Mumford, either. She plays a supporting role in the film.

“There’s actually been a lot of great reviews as well,” Mumford said Friday in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “People go in to the film with a preconceived notion on whether they will like it or not.

“I think people will be very happy with what they see.”

The film stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in the lead roles and mirrors the book from which it was adapted: a love story laced with bondage-fueled sex aimed at a decidedly female audience.

Mumford plays Kate, the roommate of main character Anastasia Steele (Johnson).

Though the film is not as explicit as the book, Mumford said it’s still true to the story – but tasteful and artfully done.

“It’s in the context of a love story,” she said. “The director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, did a really beautiful job of walking the tightrope between a love story and sexy, steamy scenes.”

Despite the hoopla around the country, Mumford was having a relatively quiet day Friday. She’s already attended the U.S. and international premieres.

The casting of the “Fifty Shades” leads was a big story in Hollywood, with actors’ names coming and going from the project. By comparison Mumford’s casting was relatively painless. She auditioned for Kate in fall 2013.

“They were very diligent about getting the cast right,” she said. “It was a slow and thoughtful process. And then I got cast, and two days later I was on a plane to Vancouver.”

Mumford did not try for the lead role.

“I always had my eyes on Kate,” she said. “We are so similar in a lot of ways. I just felt a tie with her.”.

Though set in Seattle and Portland, the film was shot in Canada in late 2013 and early 2014.

“I got to graduate from WSU,” Mumford said of a scene shot at the University of British Columbia, which stood in for the Pullman campus. “I was a proud Washington girl.”

Mumford said she hadn’t read the best-selling book until just before she auditioned for the role. But she knows a lot of the book’s readers say that.

“It’s one of those things that nobody will admit,” she said, “but now that the movie is projected to do so well this weekend, I think – between the book and the movie – everyone will have read or seen it.”

Mumford grew up in Olympia with her parents, Nancy Smith and Tom Mumford, and two siblings.

Homeschooled until the fifth grade, she attended Tacoma’s Annie Wright School for two years before transferring to Capital High School specifically for the drama program.

Her parents supported and encouraged Mumford in pursuing theater, taking her to productions – as an actor or audience member – from Seattle to Olympia. She chose acting as a career while at New York University.

After college, Mumford had roles on various television series, including “Law and Order” before she moved to Los Angeles in 2010. Three weeks later, she landed her first recurring role on the set-in-Texas Fox series “Lone Star.”

To mark the occasion, Mumford bought her parents a television – their first.

But “Lone Star” was canceled after a few episodes, and Mumford got s lesson in the vagaries of Hollywood.

“It was a great group of people,” she said. “I was very green and learned a lot. But it got canceled so fast, and that wasn’t what was expected at all. So I learned to get a tough skin and that you can’t count on anything.

“That’s OK, you just have to learn to ride the wave.”

That led to the Amazon-set action series “The River” on ABC in 2012. Filmed in Hawaii, the production required long hours on challenging sets.

“It tested a lot of physical limitations for the whole cast,” she said. “It was an incredibly grueling and exciting shoot.”

It lasted only eight episodes, but Mumford uses the experience when she feels stressed.

“If I could do that on a boat in the middle of a river at night, then I can handle whatever I’m facing,” she said.

Mumford has embraced Los Angeles and its year-round summer-like weather.

“I’ve really grown to like this city a lot,” she said. “But it took a lot of time. A lot of the great things are hidden or off the beaten path.”

While Mumford hopes “Fifty Shades” will open more doors for her career, she’s careful to remind herself that Hollywood is not who she is.

“I don’t think I’ll ever adapt to Hollywood culture,” she said. “It’s a very different world from what I grew up in. My No. 1 goal has always been and will always be to keep my feet on the ground.”

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