‘The Water Man:’ Lonnie Chavis faces his fears and builds friendships

Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
Courtesy of RJLE Films

Lonnie Chavis stars as Gunner in RLJE Films’ The Water Man. Gunner proves just how far a son will go to save his mother, making this a perfect film to take mom to this Mother’s Day.  

The Water Man also stars David Oyelowo (Selma), Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds), Amiah Miller (War for the Planet of the Apes), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), and Maria Bello (“NCIS”). The film is the directorial debut of David Oyelowo and is written by first time feature screenwriter Emma Needell. Harpo Films produced the film with Oprah Winfrey serving as an Executive Producer.

Synopsis: Gunner (Lonnie) sets out on a quest to save his ill mother (Dawson) by searching for a mythic figure who possesses the secret to immortality, the Water Man. After enlisting the help of a mysterious local girl, Jo (Miller), they journey together into the remote Wild Horse forest — but the deeper they venture, the stranger and more dangerous the forest becomes. Their only hope for rescue is Gunner’s father (Oyelowo), who will stop at nothing to find them and in the process will discover who his son really is.

Check out my Q & A with Lonnie

Amiah Miller and Lonnie Chavis. Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
Can you tell me a little bit about Gunner?

Lonnie: Gunner is a smart, artistic kid who’s not afraid of an adventure. Look how far he went just for all the love he has for his family. He just found out that this mom has leukemia after moving to a new town and he’s not that close to his dad.

Are you anything like him? 

Lonnie: 100 percent. I feel like I see myself in Gunner. I mean, I would do anything for somebody that I love. 

Because of everything that Gunner goes through, you have some really emotional scenes. How did you prepare for them? 

Lonnie: Well, it was really easy. I had my whole family on set so I had a lot of encouragement and a lot of eyes on me to do it, but it was really easy. When I got on the set, Mr David (Oyelowo) just made sure that I was always in the mindset of Gunner. He made sure that I was always prepared and ready to hop in and jump on the scene.

Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
What was it like working with David? He plays your father but he’s also the director.

Lonnie: Amazing! Working with Mr David is honestly so awesome, one of the coolest experiences of how to work as a director and an actor in this industry. You’d think it would be hard for somebody who’s a director and an actor of a movie to play in it because they have to worry about, you know, the camera angles, worry about other people’s lines, and worry about his lines, and other people’s costumes, his costume, their makeup, his makeup, so many things to control, right? And Mr David had a grip on every single one of them. He managed everything so smoothly, flawlessly and patiently. And he made sure every detail that you can see in the movie had love, like the lullaby that Miss Rosario sang to me. That was the lullaby that his wife made for his children. I mean there was love behind every single detail behind the scenes, there was real magic.

Speaking of Rosario, what was it like creating that Mother-Son relationship with her?

Lonnie: It was awesome working with Ms. Rosario. In between takes, we laughed about the dumbest things, the stupidest things that a human can possibly imagine. Like this one time it  was a really sad scene. And in between take we’re just laughing like ’oh look! A bird!’ I loved working with her and she’s one of the sweetest, kindest people that you can ever meet in this industry. Honestly, I love working with her, she’s a true professional and a great human being.

Rosario Dawson and Lonnie Chavis. Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
So in the film, your character has a little bit of stunt work going on, what was it like filming crossing that log?

Lonnie: It was very different. The log was a different experience for me because I had a fear of heights. When I had gotten to the log scene, it was actually really, really high up. But I did not want to quit, so when I got up there, I’m gonna be honest, I did not want to get down. I had a lot of anxiety in that scene but mom came in and she tried to calm me down. Mr David stepped in and got me back in the mindset of why Gunner was doing this, for the love, faith and hope he has for his mom. That let me carry on.

Amiah Miller and Lonnie Chavis. Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
What was it like working with Amiah Miller, who plays Jo?

Lonnie: Amiah was awesome, we are really good friends, we talk all the time. I loved working with her. Her, me and Ms. Rosario were like the little three on set. We were like three kids goofing off every single day. Gunner and Jo’s relationship is really touching. When you first see Jo, you see her as the, you know, the strong kid who had a physical encounter with the Water Man. Then we go deeper into the movie and the truth starts to come out a little bit, and then they start to lean on each other to build a very strong relationship. 

What was your absolute favorite parting making this movie?

Lonnie: I loved the whole production. You could really feel all the magic. Everybody treated everyone with kindness and respect, nobody had any negativity. I mean, there was so much love put into this movie. 

Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Lonnie: Not really, I’m just really excited for people to see it. It comes out this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day.

David Oyelowo and Lonnie Chavis. Photo courtesy of Karen Ballard
RLJE Films will release the adventure/drama film The Water Man In Theaters on May 7.