DOWN BY THE RIVERBy: HILuxury Team
BY DREW LIMSKY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK ARBEIT
STYLING BY: KYLE KAGAMIDA
HAIR AND MAKE-UP BY: ASHLEE ROSE FOR ARTMIX BEAUTY
ON LOCATION AT FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LOS ANGELES AT BEVERLY HILLS
AT THE FOUR SEASONS BEVERLY HILLS, in a room tightly packed with wardrobe, TV execs and a shoot team, people are fussing over Eloise Mumford as she tries on one fetching outfit after another. Mumford may be a star of the new spooky adventure series, The River, but having grown up in a family of intellectuals in Olympia, Wash., she hasn’t quite gotten used to being fussed over. Her manner is unaffected, and she gets girlishly excited about shoes. The fashion stylist nods approvingly at one of the dresses. “This one looks great on your body.”
That’s true of every dress she tries on, though. The 25-year-old is blond and gorgeous, from some angles evoking Michelle Pfeiffer. That she is incredibly fit goes without saying. But Mumford isn’t logging many hours in the gym. The show, about a scientist/explorer/TV host and his team who go missing in the Amazon, is itself a workout. Mumford plays Lena Landry, the daughter of a missing cameraman, and she says that negotiating the remote O’ahu landscape has been both beautiful and daunting. “I trained a lot before I went out there, and when we were actually shooting, the days were so intense and long that the running and hiking for the show was enough exercise,” she says. “We didn’t have time to do anything else!”
Beyond the tropical aerobics, the first season’s shoot had its arduous moments: No, Mumford didn’t actually have centipedes crawling up her face, as depicted in an early episode (they were fake), but she was required to endure real cockroaches crawling up her arm. “Thirty people were waiting in the heat for the cockroach to do anything-it was so hot, it didn’t want to move,” she recalls. Once the roaches were ready, Mumford had a moment of hesitation, then told herself, “Buck up, Eloise!”
And then there were the challenges of Hawai’i doubling for the Amazon. “We would do one take on a little section of stream,” Mumford says, laughing. “The director would yell ‘Cut!’ and the crew would back up the boat with little Zodiacs and we would do the scene again!”
Though Mumford grew up in the Pacific Northwest, she also has strong ties to Hawai’i. Her grandmother moved to Waikiki later in life and Mumford’s mother lived on the island when she was a young woman, teaching scuba in Hanauma Bay. “When my grandma passed away,” Mumford says, “the apartment stayed in the family, so I rented it from my aunt and uncle. There were pictures of me as a baby on the lanai.”
Mumford’s family is tight (they’ve visited the Hawai’i set), which greatly helps the actress relate to her character’s plight, if not her moral compass. “Lena will do anything to find her father,” she says. “I’m similarly driven. She is guarded, mysterious and not necessarily trustworthy. I’m self-reliant, but she has been forced to be that way, and she’s had a harder, much lonelier life. My own dad is a scientist and my mom is a teacher. We never had a TV in the house until I was in college. When I was in Lone Star [in 2010], my parents would go over to a neighbor’s to watch. Now you should hear my dad talking about the show’s ratings.”
The series pilot was shot in Puerto Rico, but the location site moved to O’ahu immediately afterward. “Because of Lost,” Mumford explains, “there was better access to crews.” Comparisons to Lost are inevitable, but Mumford is quick to differentiate the two shows: “The River is very unique-it has a documentary style. And Lost was scary in a different way, with an overarching story. The River has something different to solve every week. And we add new cast members-though it’s hard to add new people when you’re in the jungle!”
The River‘s backdrops include the North Shore and the lush Kahana Valley. The authenticity of the location was as impressive to Mumford as its scenery. “Kahana is one of the oldest inhabited valleys,” she says. “When we started shooting, the people held an arrival ceremony for us-we had to be welcomed into their space. They danced and sang. It’s a very sacred spot so it was really very powerful and beautiful. It meant a lot not only to shoot there, but also to have their blessing.”
Mumford was trained at New York University’s renowned Tisch School of the Arts, her scene work in Shakespeare and Brecht predating her dramatics in the jungle and the paranormal realm. While still a student, she understudied for Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) in David Mamet’s Speed the Plow at the Atlantic Theater Company and did an episode of Law & Order. “It’s a rite of passage for New York actors,” she says, “and I got to do a scene with Stabler!” How did the classics and the crime story prepare her for The River? “Acting is acting,” Mumford says, “it was fun and physically challenging, and”-no doubt thinking of the hiking and cockroach-”there was a lot of experiential learning on the shoot.”
Appreciation of her surroundings came quickly: “It’s great to see the jungle side of Hawai’i,” she says. “Sometimes we’re on location and I look around and say, ‘Oh, my god.’ People are like, ‘Oh, Eloise.’” And Mumford became a fan of shave ice in Waimanalo and “incredible local food that ‘transpo’”-the shoot’s transportation outfit-”would share with us. The local people are so hospitable and kind and generous.”
Mumford’s formal training has positioned her for different media. Her idols are Cate Blanchett (“I admire that she works in both theater and film”) and Kate Winslet (“She’s remained so normal, not wrapped up in image”). Her dream directors include David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky. And she wouldn’t mind trading in her tanks tops and cargo shorts for more fashionable attire on film: “I’d love to do a period piece, a retro throwback,” she says. “I love the Hitchcock films-the heroines were so elegant, and there was such grace to acting of the period, and it still speaks so specifically to human emotion.”
Mumford remembers watching Hitchcock films in class, sitting in the back of the theater with her hands half over her face. Now she’s supplying the thrills and jolts as The River meanders through its debut season. There’s no doubt-this is one starlet we’ll be seeing more of.
ABOUT THE SETTING
When the HILuxury crew showed up in l.A. for the cover shoot and interview of Eloise Mumford, we were greeted by rainy, overcast skies. Needless to say, we were a little worried about how the shoot would turn out.
However, the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills proved to be an oasis. The Wetherly Garden, in which we photographed Mumford, magically gleamed, despite gray skies.
Turns out the week in which we were there was a calm between storms of sorts for l.A. The week after the Grammys and before Oscar week, we encountered many a famous face (hello, Lenny Kravitz!) traipsing through the swank hotel. indeed, 35 Oscar nominees called this hotel-that celebrates its 25th anniversary in April-their home during Oscar week.
And what a home it is. The hotel’s restaurant, Culina Modern Italian, was named one of the “100 Best Wine restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Hotel guests are also privy to a “digital butler” that’s on-hand at all hours via the in-room iPads, while the spa offers indulgent treatments like the “Effervescent Facial.”
When it came time to head back home, where sunny skies greeted us, we looked back fondly at our time spent with Ms. Mumford and the pristine surroundings of the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.