In the upcoming feature film Woodlawn, newcomer Caleb Castille stars as Tony Nathan, a gifted high school football player who who battles racism on and off the field in early-1970s Birmingham, Alabama. Based on real events, the movie tells the turbulent but inspiring story of Nathan and his fellow African-American students at Woodlawn High School following the school’s government-mandated desegregation in 1973. The problems affecting the Woodlawn Colonels football team were symptomatic of the racial tensions at the school and in the town itself, which culminated in riots and cross burnings.
A miraculous change comes about when Hank, an outsider (played by Sean Astin), is deeply affected by the message of love and hope he receives at a spiritual revival meeting. Hank speaks to the team and something completely unexpected happens. Over 40 players, almost the entire team, black and white, give their lives over to the “better way.” And their spiritual awakening spreads to the school and the community.
Nathan later became a star running back for the Miami Dolphins. In an interview with Finsiders, he said, “It was during a time when people weren’t getting along very well, but as a football team, we came together. They accepted me, I accepted them. Some did, some didn’t, but you know, that’s life itself.” Regarding the Woodlawn movie, he said, “actually, it was very emotional for me to see it . . . to go back and say, ‘Well gosh, that did happen. I actually went through that.'”
The film also stars Nic Bishop (Dominion), C. Thomas Howell (The Amazing Spider-Man), Sherri Shepherd (Think Like a Man), and Jon Voight (Ray Donovan). It was directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin (Mom’s Night Out). Jon Erwin also wrote the screenplay with collaborator Quinton Peeples (TV’s Unforgettable).
Woodlawn will hit theaters on Oct. 16.