Anika Noni Rose, David Alan Grier Star In 'Watsons Go To Birmingham' World Premiere Sept. 20

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
July 8, 2013 12:28 PM
3 Comments
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Hallmark Channel has announced that The Watsons Go To Birmingham, a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, will World Premiere on Friday, September 20 (8pm ET/PT, 7C).

In addition, Hallmark Channel and Walden Media are partnering with Cable in the Classroom to offer educators what they are referring to as a "new framework for teaching students about the Civil Rights Movement."

Also developed by Walden Media, in partnership with Hallmark Channel and Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers and designed for students grades 4-12, "The Watsons Go To Birmingham" Cable in the Classroom Teacher Guide offers parents and educators a turnkey lesson plan, streaming video resources and archival photographs, giving fresh context to the stark injustices and boiling tensions that incited the Civil Rights Movement. Using the themes and messages explored in the movie as a narrative backdrop, the Guide is based on the Zaner-Bloser Voices Curriculum and was written in collaboration with Professor Robert Selman of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "The Watsons Go To Birmingham Teacher Guide," which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite and the Walden Media website www.walden.com, integrates social-emotional learning, literacy, writing and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills; support the goals of Common Core State Standards; and encourage active student participation. Cable in the Classroom will promote the teacher resources as part of "Back to School" offerings.

Produced Tonya Lewis Lee, the upcoming film adaptation of the historical fiction novel of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis, is directed by Kenny Leon (Lifetime's Steel Magnolias remake).

The film's cast includes: Anika Noni RoseDavid Alan GrierSkai JacksonLaTanya RichardsonWood HarrisBryce JenkinsPauletta Washington and Harrison Knight.

Co-produced by Nikki SilverThe Watsons Go To Birmingham centers on an African American family living in the town of Flint, Michigan, who visit their grandmother's home in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, a turbulent time during the civil rights movement.

The script adaptation was written by Tonya Lewis Lee, so she's wearing at least 2 hats on this project. 

Here's the full synopsis along with what characters each starring actor will play:

Set in the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit "All American Family" made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson (Harris and Rose) and their three kids, 15 year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Knight), nerdy 11 year-old Kenny (Jenkins) and eight year-old adorable sister Joetta (Jackson). When Byron's antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands (Richardson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama.

So the Watsons load up the 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (Grier), who show them around town, and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint - and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron's antics. Something that will change their lives and country forever.

What they get "caught up in" is the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in September, 1963, which proved to be one of the pivotal events of that year in the fight for civil rights. 

The book was Christopher Paul Curtis' first novel, and it received a Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Golden Kite Award.

The project is part of "Walmart and P&G Present Walden Family Theater," a new series of family movies created by Walmart, P&G, Walden Media and ARC Entertainment.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham is produced by Walden Media, ARC Entertainment and Tonik Productions, LLC in association with WalMart and Procter & Gamble. 

The film's first trailer should debut any day now...

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3 Comments

  • vdub | July 9, 2013 7:11 AMReply

    YES! This is great news. Excited to see Tonya Lewis Lee producing this project. Looking forward to seeing it. I enjoy Anika Noni Rose's work, especially loved her in "Ladies Number One Detective Agency". I do have to ask, 'Is Kenny Leon the ONLY director that people know?' I find his work-- both stage and screen to be fairly uninspired. Ofttimes it feels as though he is managing celebrity instead of actually directing.

  • Katie | July 9, 2013 6:31 AMReply

    AVOOON! Lol, sorry had to. I love that he's in this film. And between the other The Wire characters moving on to the Walking Dead, Fruitvale Station, and possibly Kill the Messenger, it's nice to see that these talented men are still getting work.

  • Katrina | July 8, 2013 6:06 PMReply

    I am so excited about this film. This was one of my favorite books growing up. Probably one of the only ones I had no problem reading over and over again. I can not wait to see these characters come to life on the small screen.

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