Cast, crew of 'The Best of Enemies' visit Durham for special screening

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham history will play out on the big screen Tuesday at the Carolina Theater.

A sold-out crowd will watch a special screening of "The Best of Enemies."

It tells the story of the unusual bond between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. The two were able to forge a friendship as they worked together to improve Durham Public Schools at a 10-day meeting at R.N. Harris Elementary School in 1971.

Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson, who plays Atwater in the movie, says a lot of research went into transforming into "Roughhouse Ann."

"Listening to the things that C.P. Ellis said about her. You could hear that woman. You could hear her before you see her. She had the biggest mouth, so those are very specific descriptions of someone one and all of that helped, and I watched a lot of tape of her. A lot of tape," Henson said.

Henson feels that everyone can learn from Ann Atwater's legacy. Specifically, her ability to put her differences aside when it came to C.P. Ellis.

EMBED More News Videos

ABC11's Tisha Powell speaks to some of the cast of "The Best of Enemies"

"Sometimes we have to be quiet and listen. Not listen to react, but listen to understand...and that love wins. This woman was able to change a hateful heart through sheer love," Henson said.

The movie was filmed in Atlanta instead of Durham.

Director Robin Bissell, who also produced "The Hunger Games," says the production designer worked hard to make the set as authentic as possible by even borrowing old furniture from people's homes. Bissell says he knew Henson would be perfect for the role as Ann Atwater and was thrilled she agreed to do it.

"It was like unbelievable for me, and by the way, when you get someone of the caliber of Taraji, suddenly you know it's going to be a movie," Bissell said.

"The Best of Enemies" was produced by Dominique Telson, who is also in Durham for the special screening.

She believes this film release couldn't have come at a better time. "Roughhouse requires a strength, but I think the strength to do what she did was even greater and I'm hoping that people see that."
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.