How the Hand of God Can Unite Even ‘The Best of Enemies’

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Culture

In The Best of Enemies, releasing Friday, Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell play fierce nemeses brought together to solve a public school problem in a small North Carolina town in 1971.

The true story centers on Ann Atwater (Henson), an activist for Operation Breakthrough, and C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), the Exalted Cyclops of the Durham Ku Klux Klan, who are drafted to co-chair a charrette, a community meeting designed to end the local school segregation, by Bill Riddick, a Raleigh academic.

Riddick, a man of faith, was a firsthand eyewitness to the unlikely friendship that developed between the two enemies. Looking back, he credits God for the shocking transformation that united two people and propelled the community forward. In this exclusive interview, he explains his memories of the historic event.

You saw firsthand how hearts and lives were changed through this. What was that like?

Each of those individuals came to the charrette with hardened stands. They stood on what they call principles, and they were convinced that it was what they should be doing. And consequently, when we got started the first day, it was just bad. But I had to move beyond my own biases, because I really didn’t particularly like either one of them, but my goal was to be successful. I had to do something with my biases that [would] allow them then at least to be able to talk to me and to talk to me in an honest way. I would design something every day for them to put them together, that they had to face each other, and sometimes they were just at the coffee machine or … something that really wasn’t important, but they had to go do it to allow the charrette to be successful.

Along the way, I’m sure there were bumps in the road. Were there times when you kind of doubted the whole process?

About halfway through it, we got to the weekend, and Ann suggested that we do gospel music, and she would invite us over to her church. C.P. didn’t like that at all. He just thought that was outrageous. So, he came back to me and said, “Can I put up our uniform for the Klan and our literature? Can I have space to do that?” Well, we had a real fight over that. But I tried to be very fair, and Ann was really upset. And I think that one thing started to allow them to see that we have positions in our lives that are so unnecessary that we as people need to do better. I was trying to respect that experience that they needed to go through by how I treated them.

Where did you see God in the process?

I hate to admit this, but I thought that I was being bright and smart. As I have gotten older and looked back, it was the Lord who just took me in his hands and guided me those 10 days. He put words in my mouth that I hadn’t used before and gave me faith. As I looked back at it and with my belief in God, although I wasn’t practicing at that time, He did the whole thing. There’s no doubt about it.

So, He just orchestrated the whole thing and just used you as a vessel.

He used me as a vessel and, and I’m glad I was obedient.

How hard was it for you personally to kind of put your personal feelings on the back burner for what you thought was the greater good?

I was driven at that time in my life with successes because I was trying to make a living and beyond that, I had a tremendous desire to help people. I’ve had that kind of job and role all of my life. So, I just decided that if I can, as I see it today, reduce myself to become a negotiator and allow them to do and interact with one another, I believe there was going to be a good outcome. Now, I had no idea that [they were] going to become best friends. … That wasn’t my wish at all. I didn’t see that.

What were your thoughts when you first saw this on film?

I kind of had a shock that it stayed on the truth. I don’t know anything about Hollywood, but I had been told that there were other true stories that were glossed over and whatnot. I had input in this. I had input on the writing of the script. I had input at the shooting. So, I’ve been involved in the film from Day One, even before the first words were written for the script. So, the thing that surprised me was that it stayed on point, it told the truth and I am so glad that we didn’t gloss stuff up for a movie.

What do you think would be the best thing that could happen as a result of someone seeing the film?

I’ve been asked that question a lot of times and I truly believe that if every person who saw this movie would in the next day or two go home and just look in the mirror and ask themselves, “What are my biases that hinder me from getting along with other people?” Some of these people you really don’t know. You just have got an attitude against because you heard somebody else say it. I think this country needs a whole group of people who need to say to one another, “I need to be a better person. I need to, to be more caring for other people. I need to treat other people the way I want to be treated.” If the movie could just do a little bit of that, then I think for me it would have reached its goal.

Is there anything else that maybe people aren’t asking you that you’d like to talk about?

Well, I think the one thing I don’t get asked about is how did the whole charrette bring those folks together. And there are three or four key incidents I think that did that, you know, and one was that some young African-American boys were going to tear down the Klan stuff that C.P. put up, and Ann stopped it. And when I looked out the corner of my eye, C.P. was actually peeping out of the door when she dressed down these guys who were trying to destroy it. And that, that was really a touching moment. And another one when C.P. went to the gospel thing, He knew he couldn’t clap in unison with the other people and, it might not have been Ann, but it was somebody who tried to help him clap on rhythm; those two incidents were truly amazing.

The one moment now that is the highlight of the film was [C.P.] ripping up his Klan membership card. That I must have been amazing to see.

I was maybe five feet from him. Just to set that day up for you, it’s the last day of the charrette. I asked both of them just to write down some notes and let me have them by late that afternoon as to what they were going to say. And neither one of them did, and I gave them a task that they weren’t used to doing. So, they just didn’t do it. My first thought was to close the charrette myself and, and, and, and do the talking myself as we go in and decide what it is we’re going to decide on. And then I went back to our original plan and gave C.P. the time to speak, and I would have given Ann the same time to speak. He spoke first, and obviously when he told the crowd that we had solved the problem, the charrette to me was over with. So, Ann did not get a chance to speak because half of the audience was angry and the other half was applauding. We had been successful. This charette had said that Durham needed to integrate, fully integrate that school. And that was what I was looking for.

The Best of Enemies, written and directed by Robin Bissell, opens April 5 from STX/Astute Films.

Want more pop culture? Subscribe, rate and review C-Pop on iTunes.

DeWayne Hamby is a communications specialist and longtime journalist covering faith-based film, music, books and the retail industry. He is the author of the book Gratitude Adjustment: Finding Joy Through Thankfulness. Connect with him at or on Twitter, @dewaynehamby.


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Have We Departed From the  Simplicity of Christ?

Have We Departed From the Simplicity of Christ?

Recently I heard a pastor say the following: "When I was pastoring and saw little fruit, I began to call those with potential to reach others for Christ to our home and to mentor them one on one. That's where massive growth happened in the people." Local pastors and...

Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Read Time: 3 Minutes 7 Seconds “When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold,” (2 Sam. 5:17). When David heard that he was under...

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Read Time: 3 Minutes 56 Seconds God is good. And He has a good plan for each of our lives. No matter what may be going on right now, God’s plan is unfolding. In the meantime, Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,”...

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Read Time: 2 minutes 26 seconds The term "gaslighting" has gone viral across social media this year and Merriam-Webster chose it as their word-of-the-year, saying searches for the word spiked 1,740% in 2022 alone. We're breaking down what the Bible has to say about...


WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible During a recent visit to @HungryGeneration, Pastor Vlad Savchuk asked Bill Wiese to comment on his personal experience applying the Word of God to his own...
Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Read Time: 4 Minutes 2 Seconds When I first became a believer in 1970, my mother was one of my first “converts," giving her heart to Jesus as soon as I shared with her the beauty, the power and the opportunity of making Jesus the Lord of her life. However, my father...

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

Read Time: 1 Minute 32 Seconds The last six years have been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ve seen more death, destruction, disease and devastation than I care to remember. I’ve also seen the hand of God move in extraordinary ways. Indeed, sometimes I...

Prophetic Vision: ‘Now is the Time of Your Healing’

Prophetic Vision: ‘Now is the Time of Your Healing’

Read Time: 3 Minutes 41 Seconds I was remembering a time when my husband and I were praying over friends who had been in a situation for many years that had caused deep trauma to their souls. As we were praying for them, I became aware of an angel standing over them...

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

Read Time: 4 Minutes 50 Seconds Do you believe the Lord is concerned about your emotional and spiritual health? He is. He wants you to know how to improve your emotional and spiritual health to be resilient in turbulent times. One of the most powerful things you can...

Pin It on Pinterest