The power of love is something that’s explored in many formats of pop culture—through music, books and especially film. In David Oyelowo’s latest film, ‘The Water Man,’ which also happens to be his directorial debut, love is put to the test. The plot of the film centers on Oyelowo’s family: His wife Mary (played by Rosario Dawson) is sick and growing more ill by the day, and his son Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) goes on an adventure with a classmate of his to find the elusive Water Man who is supposed to be able to save his mother.
Through an adventure that magically mirrors the sentiment of extraordinary based stories such as ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ this film brings powerful plot points to the surface through the eyes of a boy who is desperate to save the ones he loves.
Chavis sat down to discuss what went into making ‘The Water Man.’
When you first heard about this movie, why did you want to be in it?
When I got the script, I was actually 11. What intrigued me is what would intrigue an 11-year-old kid—the action, the adventure, magic, the supernatural theme on it, the graphic art and the drawings. But when I got deeper into it, I realized that this is something I could really relate to. I would do anything for someone I love, as I’m sure anyone would.
What can you tell me about your character Gunner? What do you like about him?
What I love about Gunner, he just doesn’t stop. There’s just so much faith in him, he literally crosses over this log over water when he can’t swim, he gets chased by horses, he’s on the edge of a very steep cliff to where he can fall even, but he keeps going for all the love and all of the passion and the stride and the hope that he has for his mom.
What about the transition from TV to film, is it what you expected?
If I’m being honest, I think that I actually like movies more, because it’s definitely different. This one was different from anything else that I’ve done just in general. This challenged me, this movie pushed me and pushed my limits as an actor, especially with Mr. David on the set. He really set a whole tone for the production. I feel like it definitely pushed my limits and I’m a better man and actor than before.
What were some of those things that did push your limit?
The scenes that I had to do stunt-wise. For example, the log scene. I was afraid of heights at the time, and I didn’t know that I actually had to climb on top of it in the woods and when I got up there, I did not want to get down…Everybody was looking at me, I felt pressure and my anxiety was building up. My mom tried to step in and calm me down, but she couldn’t really honestly. Then Mr.David stepped in and reminded me why Gunnar was doing this—for all of the love and passion that he has for his mom. He asked me if I would do this for my own mom and I said yes…So, I had to go through with it.
Do you think you’ll be able to take some things that you learned on set into your future acting roles?
You know, Mr. David throughout the whole entire production taught everyone—not even just me, but you can see it in just the way that he goes about things, to be a leader and not a follower. He was the director and an actor in the film. Honestly, you would think it would be hard to be a director and actor in the film because of how many things he has to manage and keep control of: The camera angles, other people’s make-up, his make-up, their lines, his lines, the focus, costumes—there are just a bunch of things to keep control of, but Mr. David had a huge grip on every single one of them. He never bumped a transition. He just made it look like a walk in the park. He did everything flawlessly, smoothly, he had everything pointed out and pinned at the spot that he wanted. He never, ever made me feel rushed, he just did everything perfectly.
What was the most magical part of this film for you?
This movie was honestly all magic. When I had gotten the script, I felt so blessed to have gotten it. Especially when I found out the leading man Mr. David Oleyelow was on it. When I had gotten to set that one day, the tone of the set and everybody’s lives on the set was just loving, it was caring and just kindness. There was literally magic beyond the scenes in that set, in the woods, with the people that you love and people that treat you right—there was magic that [we] put into the movie.
Is there any scene or character relationship in particular that sticks out to you?
Jo’s character is really interesting. I would love for people to see Jo and Gunnar’s relationship—it’s really, really sweet, because in the beginning from Gunner’s perspective, you can see Jo as a strong character. Then, as you see later in the movie, they start to lean on each other and Jo’s soft side starts to peel out and they start to build a very strong friendship until the end of the movie. It’s very sweet.
What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
Honestly, this movie doesn’t only have love: It’s about hope, faith, sacrifice, family, friendship—there are a lot of elements to this movie. But what I hope people take away is 100% to not take time for granted and that love has no limits…not at all.
‘The Water Man’ will be released in theaters May 7.