It was a true pleasure to meet and hear the story of Coach Jim White and the Diaz brothers. Check out this interview of them for their local ABC affiliate and then read my interview.
Does the movie do a good job portraying the culture of McFarland?
Damacia: I’m very proud of the way the movie turned out. Yes, it does a great job of portraying our life. Danny graduated college and that next day he’s in the fields working until he got hired and got a job. That’s what we know.
Was your mom really that way? She’s a scene stealer.
David: Not at all. She’s much worse. I’m proud of the way Hollywood portrayed us in the film. But we lived in a very strict environment.
Jim White: Even mom said, I love the film but they didn’t make me strict enough.
What has changed now the movies about to be released?
Danny: 7-10000 people live in McFarland. Not much has changed. You blink and you’ll miss it. There’s not much to do there. There’s not a mall or big grocery stores. If it weren’t for sports our kids would be lost. It’s either sports or the streets. Now our city’s excited and rightly so. Because of what Jim’s brought to our community. The whole community is just embracing the publicity.
Jim says we’ve not changed too much. But we’ve got a definite change. we changed our logo. We are no longer heartbeat of agriculture Now we’re a runner running through the field with the words Tradition, Unity and Excellence. A high school girl came up with the logo.
How often do you train together?
Jim White. We don’t train together anymore.
David: We run once in a while amongst ourselves. We’re in decent shape.
Damacio: We have kids who run and compete. I can’t keep up with them. We (Danny and I) run 3, 4, 5 miles a day just to stay in shape.
Danny: Yeah, we run to stay in shape.
Are those hills real and what you really trained on?
Damacio: Oh, they’re much worse.
Danny: If you drive 6 miles east of McFarland Mr. White took us to the hills. those are big rolling hills.
David: It helps us running wise but endurance wise as well. You also have to be prepared mentally for those hills.
What was your reaction to knowing this movie was going to be made about you?
JW from my aspect it was a 15 year process. We signed with one co two years later we signed with another. When Disney did it. We were thrilled that Disney had it. Because we knew it wouldn’t have sex, cussing or anything like that. The script that was written we prayed wouldn’t happen. So then they threw it out and Disney resigned us and we got a new writer.
Danny: How our mother was portrayed in previous scripts was a more accurate portrayal. laughter This was a family movie though so it was ok.
How much input did you have on the movie?
Damacio: We basically told our story during interviews for hours and hours. That was pretty much all we did was tell them our story.
Danny: Once you give them your story they can do whatever they want. They made me chubby and slow in the movie and that wasn’t true. They could have chosen any team because 9 different teams won state titles to write about and they chose us. We’re just happy to be a part of the movie.
Danny Did the last race happen that way?
Yes that was true. Our 3rd man Jose was out of it. Danny went from 7th to 5th and he had pressure on him for the first time ever. I was just running to displace other runners. That day we were able to pull it off.
Did that change your future races?
Danny: That was the last race that year. It was 1988 and I was a senior and Demacia was a jr. Well that year we were ranked #1 all year long. Mr. Whitehad an emergency and had to go to stockton over Christmas left us there to train on all on our own. We didn’t train. We played basketball the entire week. We got 5th that year and we should have gotten 1st. Mr. White ever went back to Stockton again.
I notice a lot of you are now teachers. Did Coach White encourage you and do you feel like you use his style in your teaching or coaching?
David: He was very inspirational. But we were teaching in Sunday schools for years and Royal Rangers. Mr. White was there as a person we could rely on. He’s a scientist, and a 5 gr teacher. We try to trip him up with leaves, bugs etc. He wasn’t the only reason we got into education but he was 1 of 3. Not the road that most people take with skin lik ours to go to other than college. I wouldn’t say that 1/5 of the folks of our color completed college.
JW Mr. Diaz dad Paul pushed education hard too. He told me I want them to get their education so he went back and got his education (GED) in 91.
How did sports impact your lives and help you move forward towards the future?
Damacio: For us we’re all tough kids. David’s the oldest and he was a bully so he made us tougher. He also encouraged us to play sports. Because he was the first and he had already done it. It teaches you discipline and character. It taught you how to accept losing or winning. It helped us travel the country and get out of our environment. A lot of us went to college and all of us that went competed there.
In the movie Coach White you spent a day helping in the fields. Did you ever do that again?
I did it quite often. I didn’t enjoy it either. In the movie we picked cabbages but we didn’t have that close to us. That was the only thing they had to show that kind of work. We picked almonds, oranges, cotton and grapes in our area. But that was a good representation of what we did.
I went to work and would grab Damacio and some of his friends and we’d go to work in the fields so we could get them shoes and uniforms and stuff.
David: And just to let you know, God’s good. We know own almond fields. Mr. White still comes and helps us work occasionally. He’s retired so sometimes we get to use him.
In your community it takes a village to raise a child. Is it still like that in McFarland today?
Danny: In our case absolutely it takes a village to raise a child. We have a big family. I myself have 7 kids. My mom has 12 brothers and sisters and my dad has 13. So we have a large family that helps. This large family helps to keep the kids on the straight and narrow too.
Damacio: This happened a lot to us when we were kids too. We looked to Mr. White as a dad as well as a Coach. He fed us, bought us shoes and kept us in line. We have a dad and we love our dad. But Mr. White was there while dad was working in the fields.
Thanks to Danny, Damacio and David Diaz and Mr. Jim White for this awesome interview. Don’t forget to go see McFarland USA movie on February 20, 2015 in your local theater. It’s an inspiring story.
Disney’s “McFarland, USA” stars Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan
Saylor, Martha Higareda, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran,
Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Danny
Mora, Valente Rodriguez, Vanessa Martinez, Chris Ellis and Diana Maria
Riva, and is directed by Niki Caro. “McFarland, USA” releases February 20, 2015.
Check out my other McFarland posts: Intro to McFarland, my first trip post of what we did and where we went and my first exclusive interview with Kevin Costner.
And my Big Hero 6 posts where I introduce the directors to you, Fresh off the Boat where we speak with the executive producer and my Bad Hair Day movie review post and interview with Leigh Allyn-Baker.