Leave it to little kids to steal a TCA panel with cuteness. During the TCA session for TV One’s upcoming Civil Rights drama White Water, twins Amir and Amari O’Neil were asked about their experiences about playing a black child in 1963 Opelika, Alabama. Based on true events and directed by Rusty Cundieff, White Water tells the story of seven-year old Michael, who is obsessed with drinking out of the “white’s only” water fountain. His determination, and blindness to racism, set off his friends, the local police and the KKK.
A reporter asked Amari O’Neil why the water would taste different, to which he sincerely responded drawing from an on-set experience, “Well, different people thought it would taste different because my friend Tommy in the movie, he was drinking it for a long time. It really was better than ours…It wasn’t gross and nasty.”
The same reporter then asked his brother, Amir O’Neil, why there would ever be a rule segregating water fountains, to which he declared “I think they made a rule like that — they thought they were better than the black man just because they were white. In my eyes they should have stopped it at that time in 1963.”
“Michael is the Forrest Gump of Civil Rights because seen through his eyes, there’s a truthfulness and naivete,” said Cundieff, “He sees what’s going on, but everyone is incorrect and seeing the world incorrectly. He is the one that sees a different reality.” Cundieff lucked out by finding the twins via auditions, a big plus given that the character of Michael is practically in every frame of the film.
TV One SVP Programming and Production D’Angela Proctor expressed her elation that White Water, which premieres February 7, is coming out on the heels of Selma, but “it shows a different tone of the Civil Rights era.”
Asked about how the backdrop in White Water parallels today’s current race tribulations in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder and Ferguson, MO., Cundieff admitted, “I wasn’t thinking about those events when we were starting this project. It took five years for someone like D’Angela to give me money to do this film. Racism is such a heavy topic and taking it from the entry point of a little boy; the pain is always the same.”