Apparently, this comment was made during an interview with the leftist online rag The Daily Beast. She stars as a military police officer in Camp X-Ray, who befriends a detainee in Gitmo. Director Peter Sattler had wanted the film to be apolitical, but I'm not sure how possible that might be considering the subject matter.
Marlow Stern asked Stewart about the relationship between the detainee and Stewart's character:
Your character’s relationship with Peyman’s detainee reminds us of the humanity of these people. We tend to view suspected terrorists as this nameless, faceless “other,” when they’re human beings, too.Stewart's response:
As Americans, we should absolutely aspire to more than that. If you label something “bad,” people will justify the most terrible things. Just because you’re following a greater whole, suddenly you take the individual out of it and no one bears responsibility for anything."
The rest of the discussion regarding Camp X-Ray:
She really gets swept up in all the post 9/11 patriotism and signs up for Gitmo duty, only to find that it isn’t what she thought at all.Stewart:
She’s simple, not very smart, and really socially inadequate—but a good person. So, if you can sign up, put a uniform on, and erase yourself, you don’t have to consider yourself anymore. You can take the individual out of it and say, “Well, this dignifies me. I’m good because of this.” And when that doesn’t end up being true, you actually have to contend with who you are. All she wants is to think, “They did 9/11, they’re bad, fuck that, I’m going to do my job and I’m going to do it well.” But then she gets down there and just can’t accept it; she can’t conform to that.Stern:
Right. The mistake we make is not viewing these detainees down there as people, too. We’re all people.Stewart:
That is essentially so fucking evil, it’s crazy. It’s a ridiculous idea for you to think that you know anything for sure in life—other than to take care of your fellow people. Where the fuck do you get off thinking otherwise? These two people couldn’t be from more different worlds and perspectives, and probably disagree fundamentally on most things, but there’s a through-line for all of us—and that’s what people forget, and that’s what makes people capable of doing terrible things to each other. What makes you different from any other person that walks the earth?
What makes us different from terrorists, Kristen and Marlow? Most of us have a moral compass, and a conscience. We know it's wrong to murder others. Yes, we as actors have to sometimes play evil characters, and we need to justify the character's actions, because from the character's perspective we are doing nothing wrong. But that does not mean the actor has to embrace or justify that evil.