A Conversation with Lonnie Chavis

I had the pleasure of speaking to Lonnie Davis about starring in the The Water Man — in theaters May 7, 2021.

We also discuss racism, bullying and coming of age during COVID-19.

Yanis: It’s such an honor to get to speak with you. Tell me about The Water Man. What made you say yes to this film?

Lonnie: When I first read the script, I was drawn in by the action and adventure but when I dug deeper into it with my mom, I realized that I can really relate to Gunner’s character since I would do anything for somebody that I love, especially my mom.

Y: Tell me about Gunner. How is he different than the other characters you’ve played in the past?

L: Well I’ve never played a character that had a mission, and Gunner has a straight mission to save his mom. All you need to do is give him a cape and he would basically be a superhero.

Y: What was it like working alongside David Oyelowo and Rosario Dawson? What wisdom did they impart on you? Tell me about the lullaby.

Lonnie Chavis and Rosario Dawson

L: It was a pleasure. They’re both really huge stars, but they’re both still very human and you can see that in how they treated everybody on set. Mr. David made sure that there was love put into every single detail, like the lullaby, which was a song that Mr. David’s wife made for his children. It was beautiful.

Y: What was your process like with your co-star Amiah Miller? Is there a particularly memorable scene you can recall filming with her?

Lonnie Chavis and Amiah Miller

L: What you will see in the film is two people who actually became friends. As Gunner and Joe’s relationship built throughout the movie, so did ours in real life.

Y: I’m so sorry about the racist behavior you’ve endured. How would you describe racism and bigotry to somebody whose privilege has blinded them from it?

I’ve often stated that humans are not creatures of reason, but creatures of intuition. People get a bad feeling about somebody and then they become pathologically convinced the person is doing wrong.

If the accused tries to counter with a sensible argument as to why the accuser is acting in bad faith, they will either ignore reason or worse, they will internally realize they’ve got the wrong person and begin behaving defensively to save face — even if that means throwing the accused under the bus. That’s been my experience.

I would love to hear more about your thoughts on this because I was so moved by your essay on racism.

L: Well first of all, racism and bigotry are awful, those people need to fix their hearts. You’re basically hating somebody for something they had no control over. That’s like hating all blind people for being blind when they had no control over losing their sight, it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it!

What it basically comes down to is we need to have more compassion and empathy for one another and be willing to hear each other out.

Y: Something young men of color have to go through is transition from being a child — children are generally seen in a non-threatening light — to becoming a young man of color, who society perceives as being the most dangerous people.

What was it like going through that transition? How did your parents and siblings prepare you for it?

Lonnie Chavis

L: Well I believe that I was even feared as a young kid too, but growing up, my parents taught us to take precautions when going out in the world as a black man. Better safe than sorry.

Y: Tell me about Fix Your Heart. How did comments about your teeth catalyze this endeavor?

L: Fix Your Heart is an anti-bullying campaign I created with my mom after being told online and offline that I needed to fix my gap, to which I responded that braces can fix this, but can’t fix your heart.

I know that bullying, trolling, hating, and even racism is a heart issue. So, we created Fix Your Heart TV where I invite people to share their experiences and hopefully change others perspective.

We also created a clothing line because I love fashion, and part of the proceeds go back to Fix Your Heart TV and supporting other charities I believe in.

Y: Do you have any techniques you use to deal with bullying or unwarranted comments? I’ve struggled with knowing when to speak up because I don’t want to be seen as “problematic,” but you can’t just let everything go. At what point should you say something?

L: You can turn off comments or you can allow only your friends to comment if it bothers you. It’s important to use your voice and it’s never problematic to tell people you don’t want to be mistreated.

Lonnie Chavis and David Oyelowo

Y: How are you and your friends dealing with lockdown? Two years for a child feels like is era. Every parent and child is dying to know. How are milestones like birthdays being celebrated?

How are you dealing with not feeling jaded, especially since you’re only 13 once?

L: I’ve actually been doing really well. I’m happy to be alive and healthy, and also so thankful for my family’s health. It’s all about keeping things in perspective.

Y: What’s next for you? What are some of your short- and long-term goals in this industry and outside of it?

L: I 100 percent want to do more roles like this in my career. Roles that challenge me not only as an actor, but as a human being. I also hope that I can impact many lives for the better with Fix Your Heart.

Y: My friend Gyvenska was so incredibly moved by your performance on This Is Us. It would mean the world to her if you gave her a shout out. Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. You’re going to go far in this business.

L: Thank you, I really appreciate that. And to Miss Gyvenska from me, Lonnie Chavis, thank you for all your support and I hope to bring you more performances that you will love.

You can follow Lonnie Chavis on Instagram and Twitter.

Lonnie Chavis and Amiah Miller



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