Rosario Dawson plays a mother who is dying of leukemia while trying to keep her family together in the upcoming fantasy film The Water Man. The film also stars David Oyelowo — who is making his directorial debut — as her husband and Lonnie Chavis (“This Is Us”) as their young son, and it will be released in theaters on May 7.
Your character, Mary, in The Water Man, is diagnosed with leukemia and must navigate her terminal illness with her young son. How would she do it, knowing that death is something that the whole family must deal with?
We see Mary trying to make the most of her time with her son and family because she is aware of the ticking clock. Rather than being depressed all of the time, she makes an effort to be as beautiful as she can in order to be a part of his memory of her. I think that parents can relate to everything right now, from how the quarantine has affected our children to the demonstrations and watching live and continuous videos of trauma, bullying, and violence, and then not talking to their children about it and trying to dance around any of the subject matter without understanding how much [their children] are affected.
The movie also looks at how a husband and wife are challenged to keep their marriage vows “in sickness and in health.” What is Mary’s reaction to her husband’s reaction to her illness?
I believe Mary has played a significant role in this family for a long time, filling in the holes left by her husband’s absence. There’s a lack of affection, a lack of confidence, and she’s not letting him get away with it. You can understand that, when disaster strikes, people tend to forget it and avoid dealing with it in the hopes that it will go away. However, you must give people the opportunity to turn up and share how they are feeling on the inside.
What advice would you give to spouses whose families are coping with severe terminal illnesses?
When you are faced with your mortality, it can have a variety of effects on you. We are not just robots programmed to function, accomplish, and build. We need to play, laugh, dance, and enjoy each other because, as painful as it can be to have those difficult conversations when you lose someone, it is such a thing of beauty to have them after they are gone. You start to recognize that you can actually appreciate everything, and you don’t want to get that when it’s too late.