TV ONE will ring in Black History Month with Behind The Movement as their flagship cinema, focusing on unsung heroes, civil disorder, strength and resilience, a necessary leverage that started the 1955 boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
So, what can viewers expect?
Onlookers will experience outrage. They’ll ask alarming questions like, “Why was there so much hatred for Blacks during those times— And why did racism survive for centuries?
Once the initial shock and fury subsides, audiences should feel educated.
It took four days to strategize and pull off one of the most successful embargos in history. One that would affect the economy in such a way, that Blacks would eventually see equality.
Behind The Movement draws an elaborate timeline from the date that Parks was arrested until the day of the actual boycott.
There are no gaps in this story. Each transaction leads to the very beginning of the civil rights movement.
The first scene opens at an embroidery shop where Rosa Parks (Meta Golding) is smiling and toiling away, only making small and yet polite exchange with patrons.
Upon leaving that evening, Parks overhears White conservatives scoffing. Their conversations swirled like staunched paint. They celebrated haughtily the acquittals of Emmett Till’s murderers.
On the opposite side of town, and in that same moment, Raymond Parks (played by Roger Guenveur Smith), seemed optimistic even though he felt dismayed by the printout in the paper.
In both instances the dialogue erupted about the heinous murder of Till.
Blacks wanted redemption and Whites felt that Till had gotten what he deserved for whistling at a White woman.
Suffice to say, TV ONE did an amazing job. They even used the original bus from December 1, 1955. The monumental artifact for the movement.
Incorporating hatred: Scenes from the film were cold and erie. Even at dawn, the contrast was gloomy and muted, representing desolation and loathing at its deepest core.
Director, Aric Avelino, set the proverbial tone to the exact space and times of the 1950’s. He selected darkened colors that pales slightly in HDTV quality. The film magnifies coldness, anger and a sullied primitiveness.
Avelino said that it was important to be a part of the story. He said that his job was made easier because of the incredible scripts written by Katrina O’Gilvie, as well as an incredible cast.
“When you start with those elements, in a story that so much of us care about; not just African American History, but American History, it makes coming to work every day so much easier.
It’s an important story in part because my grandmother marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, and my other grandmother was at Emmett Tills funeral. My father was the first to integrate his school in Washington D.C.
These stories were things that I grew up with. I was excited to learn more about it. I learned from Katrina’s script as well, when this was first brought to me.
I didn’t realize there was four days in between [the arrest], when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and when the boycott began. I can’t imagine what it took to organize and undertake such a big ordeal. Upon learning about all the people who took part in that, not just Rosa Parks and her husband Raymond, I learned about E.D Nixon, who I had never heard about, which was astonishing to me. Jo Ann Robinson, and the brigade of women, who really launched the boycott.
These are the people that are unsung heroes. We really didn’t learn about them in school because history books didn’t make time for that, but I think it’s important to recognize that these people mobilized in a way that even now [it] would be challenging.
I’m excited to bring that to life, with the level of authenticity, and an incredible cast who’s capable of making it authentic. A lot of times these stories are painted with just a broad brush when we think of these people as heroes and icons, but we don’t really get to know them as people.”
Screenwriter for the production, Katrina O’Gilvie shared that she isn’t from the U.S. In fact, she spent her upbringing in the South of Spain, where they learned historical facts rather early. O'Gilvie fell in love with the antiquated components of history. She also said that she was deeply excited for the opportunity to dive in and learn about the experience of Rosa Parks.
“It was also very daunting and challenging for me emotionally, because as I was researching 1950, 1955 and the South in America, we were in the middle of an election—And I see so many parallels in 1955 to 2017. It was disappointing and sad that so many things we went through in the fifties was somehow creeping back into this country frontline where it became much more visual, and that was a big challenge.
I also decided that it would be more important that I tell the story as fluidly as I could with so much of it being truthful. There is very little in this film that’s not correct. It’s all historical and very few characters were created by me. I could dive into the incredible talents of the people who were there, who made this possible, and to have the fearless-fortitude to move forward in a time where this had never been done. They did not know what would become of it [their actions]. They all knew they were putting their lives on the line.”
O’Gilvie created incredible dialogue, authenticated to those times. In doing so, she produced an impeccable script, and Avelino matched it by bringing the film to life, and giving it unrivaled personality.
Meta Golding [Rosa Parks] said that she knew who Parks was and the things she did to help the civil rights movement. Golding accounted, “I didn’t know that before she gave up her seat in 1955, she was a seasoned activist, that she was the secretary of the NAACP, along with E.D Nixon.”
Loretta Devine verablized that she was excited to do the project.
“I thought I knew a lot about the Montgomery bus boycott. We studied it during history. It happened in 1955—I was a young girl myself. I was amazed that there were things I didn’t know. The people will learn because of seeing this movie.”
Loretta Devine as Jo Ann Robinson
Photo of Jo Ann Robinson in 1955
"Rosa Parks speaks with an interviewer as she arrives at court with Reverend Edward Nixon and 91 other African Americans on trial for violation of a 1921 anti-boycott law. "
Isaiah Washington embodied the character E.D Nixon, the diplomatic voice and figure that pushed for the desegregation of buses in Montgomery.
Washington said that he could exemplify E.D Nixon by many things.
“I choose characters that bother me, that I might not even like, that I may be judgemental of… those characters scare me because I may see a lot of myself in them. I could summarize off one interview [with E.D Nixon]. I found one video that was done in Washington University, in Saint Louis—There was one video apparently done in the eighties. The cusp of what I saw was a man that wasn’t bitter, but he couldn’t understand how he could possibly be left out of history. He was the president of the NAACP. He was the president of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, in Montgomery, Alabama.
In fact, he outlived Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and was helping poor rights well into his eighties, wearing the same three-piece suit.
He was someone who had this big, bold unmitigated Gaul to be in the cradle of a confederacy, work his worth on a train for the George Pullman company, own his own house, and have the unmitigated Gaul to demand civil rights from the thirties to the forties, to the fifties. Not only did he demand it, but he got that change.
And I didn’t know about this man? What a travesty.
That was exciting (researching E.D Nixon). I was miseducated and I don’t know if it was intentional or I just wasn’t looking at the right places at the right time.
We didn’t have internet when I was in school. We had the microfiche. Growing up in Houston (TX), Loretta, my sister, knew exactly how it was there.
We were lucky if we knew who the first president was.”
Washington imparted that they looked up to leaders like Fredrick Douglas, Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks, they were his heroes.
“To have Aric Avelino and Katrina O’Gilvie teach me [history], as well as allow me to do what I love to do—Amazing opportunity.”
Katrina couldn’t let Washington off the hook so easy… “It was an honor for us, to have you speaking my words. It was incredible. This cast has been incredible. To see it come off the page and see it impact you so much, means everything to me. Thank you.”
“You did the research,” Washington reasoned.
“I can only go back to your words. I still love Lorrain Hansberry. I’m from the theater. Me and Meta, we’re all from the theater. Well, I can’t speak for them. I love words. We don’t have public discourse anymore. Everybody’s neck is bent over with two thumbs. Nobody talks. Nobody writes.
I could play in a period piece, and to work with Loretta, Roger and Meta, and create this little space of art with Aric—This is the first real person I’ve ever played. This is my Winston Churchill.
“When I got out the Uber and turned the corner... before I met Aric, before I met anyone, when I got within three-feet of that yellow bus, my breath was taken away.
I wasn’t worthy to get on the bus. I haven’t done enough. My activism is my work. I’ll get on that bus when I’m done, and that is why I did Behind The Movement.”