Upon the 50th anniversary of pivotal events in the Civil Rights movement, Hallmark Channel is proud to present “The Watsons Go To Birmingham,” a Hallmark Channel Original Movie World Premiere on Friday, September 20 (8p.m. ET/PT, 7C).
The film, which is an adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis’ 1996 Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Award winning book The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963, follows an all American family on their road trip from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and their historic summer experiences give them a newfound courage to stand up for what is right and helps them grow stronger as a family in the process.
Tony® Award winner and Grammy® Award nominee Anika Noni Rose (“The Good Wife,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Princess and the Frog”) stars along with three-time Tony® Award nominee and Grammy® Award nominee David Alan Grier (“Porgy and Bess,” “PEEPLES,” “In Living Color”), Skai Jackson (“Jessie”), Wood Harris (“The Wire,” “Remember The Titans”), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“The Fighting Temptations”), Pauletta Washington (“Beloved”), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (“Easy A,” “Have A Little Faith”) and Harrison Knight (“We the Party”).
The film will be part of Hallmark Channel’s exciting new Friday night appointment viewing franchise, “Walden Family Theater,” presented in collaboration with Walmart, Procter & Gamble, award-winning family entertainment producer Walden Media (“The Chronicles Of Narnia,” “Bridge To Terabithia,” “Holes”) and fast-growing independent studio ARC Entertainment. “Walden Family Theater” is designed to further fill the void on TV for quality family entertainment.
Set in the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit 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 Jackson) 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.
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.
“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is presented by ARC Entertainment, Walden Media, Walmart and Procter & Gamble and is a ToniK Production. Louis J. Grieci III, Ben Simon, Janet M. Morrison, Aaron Tucker, Jim Bechtold, Trevor Drinkwater, Brad Liebow and Brian Wells serve as executive producers and Philip Kleinbart, Nikki Silver and Tonya Lewis Lee serve as producers. Based on the book, The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Random House Children’s Books, the teleplay is by Tonya Lewis Lee and Stephen Glantz & Caliope Brattlestreet and is directed by Kenny Leon.