ALFRE WOODARD, FRANK LANGELLA AND JEFF HEPHNER STAR IN "THE WATER IS WIDE," A NEW "HALLMARK HALL OF FAME" PRESENTATION TO BE BROADCAST SUNDAY, JAN. 29 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
The Movie Is Based on the Autobiographical Book
By New York Times Best-Selling Author Pat Conroy ("The Prince of Tides")
THE WATER IS WIDE, a new "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation starring the multi-Emmy Award-winning Alfre Woodard ("Miss Evers' Boys," "The Practice," "Desperate Housewives"), two-time Tony Award-winning Frank Langella ("Seascape," "Fortune's Fool," "Good Night, and Good Luck") and Jeff Hephner ("The O.C.," "The Jury") will be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 29 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The drama, spanning 1969 to 1970, based on the memoir of the same name by New York Times best-selling author Pat Conroy ("The Prince of Tides"), recounts Conroy's experiences as a young, idealistic and unconventional teacher who strives to bring literacy, knowledge and self-respect to the predominantly poor black children living on a small isolated island off the coast of South Carolina.
Desperate to secure a job as his wedding day approaches, Pat Conroy (Hephner) convinces Dr. Henry Piedmont (Langella), the arrogant superintendent of schools, to offer him a teaching position on the remote Yamacraw Island. Despite the fact that he would be required to live there on weekdays during the school year, he accepts the position after obtaining the reluctant blessing of his bride-to-be, Barbara, (Julianne Nicholson), a teacher and widowed mother of a 6-year-old girl.
Upon meeting the 12 students in his combined classroom for grades five through eight, Pat is shocked to find that most of them are illiterate, can barely add and can't even name their own country or its president. Mrs. Brown (Woodard), the school's black principal and its only other teacher, instructs him to be stern and tough with his pupils to keep them under control. Instead, Pat focuses on teaching them via imaginative and alternative means. He also attempts to connect with some of the less-than-welcoming influential locals, including Edna Graves (LaTanya Richardson), the blunt, world-weary grandmother of three of Pat's students.
Though the children embrace his kind, spirited and, at times, silly manner, and begin to thrive under his tutelage, Pat continues to face resistance from Mrs. Brown and Dr. Piedmont. To further expand the students' horizons, the undaunted Pat coordinates a class outing to the mainland for his wedding and a subsequent educational field trip to Washington, D.C. However, instead of receiving praise, Pat learns that his job may be in jeopardy, and he has no intention of abandoning the students without a fight.
Alfre Woodard has earned Emmy Awards for her roles in the series "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "The Practice," and the television film "Miss Evers' Boys." She also received an Emmy Award nomination for her work in the Peabody Award-winning "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson." Among her additional television credits is her current starring role on the series "Desperate Housewives." Her feature film credits include "Cross Creek," for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, as well as "Passion Fish," "Crooklyn," "Bopha!," "Rich in Love," "Blue Chips," "Heart and Souls," "Grand Canyon," "Health," "Star Trek: First Contact" and "Remember My Name."
Frank Langella won a Tony Award for his performance on Broadway in Edward Albee's "Seascape." He subsequently played the title role in the acclaimed Edward Gorey staging of "Dracula," a role he recreated for the screen in John Badham's "Dracula" in 1979. Since his New York stage debut in the leading role in the Off-Broadway revival of "The Immoralist," Langella has appeared in dozens of plays on Broadway, Off-Broadway and at leading regional theaters throughout the country. He won a second Tony Award in 2002 for "Fortune's Fool." Among his feature film credits are "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Diary of a Mad Housewife," "Masters of the Universe," "Dave," "Body of Evidence," "Lolita" and the upcoming "Superman Returns." His television movie credits include "Moses," "The Beast," "The Mark of Zorro" and "Sherlock Holmes."
Jeff Hephner's television credits include a lead role in "The Jury," a recurring role on "The O.C.," and a guest-starring role on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Among his feature film credits are "Maid in Manhattan" and "Tigerland." Hephner got his start performing in community theaters in Michigan and Florida.
THE WATER IS WIDE is a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production. Richard Welsh ("The Blackwater Lightship") and Brent Shields ("Back When We Were Grownups") are the executive producers. John Kent Harrison ("Pope John Paul II," "What the Deaf Man Heard") directed from a script by Jonathan Estrin ("Jasper, Texas") based on the book by Pat Conroy.