Pasadena, Calif. — TV One’s White Water isn’t your typical Civil Rights era movie.
“It was just one of those things that looked at this particular period of our history through the eyes of this young kid and it was such a whimsical way of looking at it,” director Rusty Cundieff said Friday during the TCA Winter Press Tour. “And it was so without anger and such a different point of view of that time period.”
White Water, which is based on the true story of Michael Bandy, takes place in Opelika, Ala., during 1963 and follows a young Michael as he becomes obsessed with tasting the water out of the “whites only” fountain.
“My friend Tommy in the movie, he was drinking it for a long time and I thought just because he was drinking it for a long time it was really good,” said Amari O’Neil, who played Michael along with his brother Amir. “It wasn’t like all rusty and gross and nasty.”
Cundieff, who was first approached with the story while teaching at USC, said he viewed the movie as “a Forrest Gump of Civil Rights” because there was a “naiveté and truthfulness” to Michael’s view of the segregated South.
“Everybody is seeing the world incorrectly,” said Cundieff. “His incorrect version, though, is the one that allows everybody else to finally come around and see a different reality, which I think is really charming.”
TV One’s programming and production chief D’Angela Proctor echoed Cundieff’s sentiments.
“Through his success in tasting the white water and realizing that it all came from the same pipe that healed the city,” said Proctor.
White Water is set to premiere on TV One Feb. 7.
Other highlights from the panel included:
—Larenz Tate, who plays Michael’s father in the movie, opened up about why he took the role. “I connected with it because the movie had so much charm and it had a combination of drama and humor that I thought was needed.”
—Cundieff said that the movie was shot in 18 days and because of that tight schedule they were hoping to find “twins, triplets or quadruplets” to play Michael.
—Amir and Amari told the audience what they thought of the drinking fountain rule.
Amir: “I think it shouldn’t be like that. The rule was really stupid and dumb. You shouldn’t judge people by their color. You shouldn’t judge people at all.”
Amari: “I think they made a rule like that because they thought that they were better than the black man just because they were white. So I think that they should have stopped it at that time in 1963.”