“White Water” Star Larenz Tate Says His New Movie Takes On Civil Rights Era In A Whole New Way
Larenz Tate is a busy guy. In between flexing his producing and directing chops, a recurring role on Showtime’s “House of Lies,” and a slate of new movies out in 2015, the “Dead Presidents” star is raising his three little boys. Tate, 39, star and producer of the new movie, “White Water,” which premieres Feb. 7 on TV One, spoke to Bossip about how the new, civil rights-era flick tackles race, his thoughts on Bobbi Kristina’s tub incident and how he’s steered clear of the temptations of Hollywood.
“When people don’t hear from me, I’m balancing out my career and directing, and I’ve got three boys to raise.”
BOSSIP: Larenz, tell us about your new movie, “White Water.”
LT: “White Water is a interesting point of view and take on stories about the civil rights era. This particular story is told through a young boy’s point of view. It’s a coming of age story in his journey to taste this forbidden water that he’s told he can’t try or taste, because he’s not white. For a child who doesn’t understand segregation who can’t wrap his mind around not being able to share the most neutral thing we have on this earth, is totally absurd to him. He’s been told that if he drinks this water, not only is he breaking the law, he’s in grave danger. People have been hurt for doing less.
BOSSIP: What drew you to the project?
LT: “For me, I wanted to do this movie, because it approached this time and era in a way that was totally different. You see this world from a child’s point of view and how they view the world. If a little black boy saw a klansman, he wouldn’t know what that means, he has to be taught that. We’re not born racist, and this movie represents that.”
Bossip: What’s your role in the movie?
LT: “I play the boys father, Terrance, who is a jazz musician, in and out of town, he’s a bit of a rolling stone. He’s not with the boy’s mother. Despite their differences, they understand the importance to raise and co-parent this child, to instill the morals that he needs, and give him all the right tools.”
“Even though he’s not with the mom, he’s in the boys life. He’s telling him all the time, don’t allow your skin to define you. Don’t let your race hinder you. The boy takes stuff like that for face value. Hence he’s going to go on the journey to find that white water. That’s the charm about the film. You see how children view the world.
BOSSIP: What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
LT: “This movie is intended to show audiences that we can be reminded about our history and how our culture was shaped, but it doesn’t hinder us from evolving. We can tell stories that deal with heavy subject matter in a very palatable way, that all ages can digest and get something from it. If an 8-year-old boy can see the absurdity of segregation than its clear that it was done from the start.
I have three boys myself. This is something that we’re very excited about, watching this together. I felt like this is something I can share with my children. If there are questions they want to ask, I can show them that not long ago, this is how it was.”
BOSSIP: How is this period drama different to other period dramas you’ve been involved with?
LT: “This movie has far more innocence to it, where like, the other movies like “Dead Presidents,” dealing with Vietnam, and the return of African-American men who fought in the war, was just totally different to this story, an boys view on the world. The experience was a little different, because shooting this movie in Alabama, I was fortunate to work on location, and we were on beautiful land that was once owned by slave owners. It was a plantation.”
“There was a standing structure that was home to slaves, a slave quarters. We dressed up the outside of it as the juke joint where my character plays. It actually was a slave quarter. To be there to see that, it’s like wow, the contribution that we as African-Americans made should not be taken for granted, or forgotten. We essentially built; this country and we don’t get enough credit for surviving that.”
BOSSIP: You’ve been very active on social media reacting to issues of race, how will White Water help with that ongoing conversation?
“I believe that White Water will suggest that a lot of stuff hasn’t gone away. We’re still dealing with the racial tension in our own community. We’re dealing with race and tension when it comes to law enforcement. We dealt with it then, it was against the law to drink from a water fountain or go the bathroom that wasn’t for whites. People are misusing the law now, because of their preconceived notions about black folks.”
“Because it’s such a touch situation, no one wants to talk about it. Racism is a stupid thing, bottom line, and even a baby, a child, can understand that.”
BOSSIP: What are your thoughts on the big news of the week, Bobbi Kristina’s bathtub incident? Do you know the Houston family?
LT: “I don’t know the Houston family, but I did hear something, that she was found and they had to revive her. It was just really sad to hear. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Houston family. I hope that there’s something you can take away from that for young people. It’s really tough when you’re under the microscope.”
BOSSIP: You’ve been in movies and TV for more than 20 years. How were you able to steer clear of the dangers and pitfalls of stardom?
LT: “I was able to steer clear of that because I had parents and a family who really supported me. As actors and entertainers, it can be a very lonely road. There are so many superficial things around you; people who don’t have a strong sense of self find themselves coming to those pitfalls of that superficial world that has no foundation at all. I’ve been in the game for a long time, but I had the support of my mother and father to keep me and my brothers grounded.
“It’s touchy man, it ain’t easy. There are pitfalls all around. I’m not an angel, and nor am I perfect, but for me, I do my best to see what’s important. Family is important to me, the work that I do is important to me, the way that I carry myself is important to me. I know those superficial things can compromise a lot. As much as those things seem enticing, you gotta understand, is it worth it at the end of the day?”