Meet Coach White and the Diaz Brothers Inspirations for McFarland USA #McFarlandUSAEvent

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Poster de la película de Disney McFarland USA

Hi everyone! Right before interviewing Kevin Costner (see that here), we had the great privilege of interviewing the real life inspirations behind the new Disney film, McFarland, USA, Coach Jim White and the Diaz brothers, David, Damacio and Danny. They were so charming, and funny, and honest. They appeared happy to be with us, and they enjoyed sharing their behind the scenes stories about the movie and what's going on in their lives now.

I felt very humbled in their presence. Humbled, I guess, by everything they've accomplished and the power of both their belief in themselves and their hard work. The conversation flowed easily, so when the 25 minutes were gone I was wishing we had had another hour to chat. I hope you enjoy these excerpts from our conversation:

Hermanos Díaz and Coach Jim White - the real inspiration behind McFarland USA

Coach White about getting the movie made–

“…It was about a 15-year process for us, my wife and I. We signed with this one company. …Two years later, we signed with another one, not quite that often, but, …it took a long process….we were thrilled …that Disney had it, because then we knew that it shouldn't have any sex and…cussing and cigarettes and this type of thing, you know…We were very happy…”

Scene of McFarland USA with Kevin Costner and Mrs. Díaz

When asked if they felt the movie did a good job portraying their lives–

Damacio Diaz:

“Yeah, we’re very, very proud of the way the movie portrayed us, our family. We were raised in the field, it was…our life. We started picking and hoeing and raking and doing everything you could possibly think of. We were about seven or eight years old when all that began, so for us, it was a way of life.” 

Jim White said that the only one who had some doubts was the brothers' mother, she told them,”I love the film, but they didn't make me strict enough.”

Damacio Díaz
Damacio Díaz ©

I wanted to know if McFarland had changed through the years and Danny jumped in to answer–

“You know, growing up in McFarland, we didn’t have much. There’s nothing to do in McFarland. when we were growing up, maybe seven, eight, nine, ten thousand people is the population. It’s grown a little bit in the last two, three years, but not much has changed. It’s a poor community. you’re driving on 99, the freeway, and you blink… you’ll miss it…. We don’t have the big malls. And we don’t have…the big grocery stores…But, if it weren’t for sports…our kids would be lost, because it’s either… education and sports or the streets. And those…are the two extremes and those are the two options… for our community. Right now our community is…excited…obviously with the movie and rightfully so.”  

Danny Díaz McFarland USA
Danny Díaz ©

Coach Jim White–

“…Let me add a little bit… I see a definite change. We have changed our city logo. We are no longer the Heartbeat of Agriculture. Now we are a runner running through the field, a figure — silhouette of a runner. And underneath,  Tradition, Unity, and Excellence. So, that’s a big change.”

McFarland High School

Obviously running was a huge part of their lives and we wanted to know if they have continued running–

Damacio Diaz:

We have kids that are in high school and some that are…in elementary school. And so, I can’t keep up with my kids in high school , but I go by a little seven-year-old. We run…you know, three, four, five miles a day just to stay in shape.Runners in the mountain, scene of McFarland USA

Sitting in the room I could feel the huge impact they had had on each others' lives. We could see the camaraderie and their great respect and love for each other–

David Diaz:

We are…God-fearing folks, so we were…teaching in Sunday school, … and we were part of the Royal Rangers and so — we did that on Tuesday nights, at our local church, but, yeah…, Mr. White was there…as a person that we can rely on. And, and believe it or not, before he was a coach, a scientist. He…was a fifth grade teacher and before he was a P.E. teacher. And so, …he’s a very knowledgeable guy when it comes — you pick up any type of bug or any type of leaf, he knows what it is. And we try to trip him up on that, and he’s very, very, …smart in that regard. Um, he’s a pretty good coach, too.”

David Díaz McFarland USA
David Díaz ©

Most of them became coaches or teachers of some sort–

David Diaz :

“... a fifth of the folks in high school ended up, especially,… folks of our color and our culture, …maybe started school,…but hardly any of us finished. So, it was a big, big deal for us.”  

Coach Jim White added–

“Mr.Diaz, their dad, Paul, he pushed education real hard, too…He told me… I want them to get their education, so I will go back and get my education, and he did. He went back and got it.”

Regarding the influence of sports in their lives–

Damacio Diaz:

“We were already tough kids and we were…used to working hard and…they’re seven of us in our family. We’re all a year apart. David’s the oldest and he was a bully. He would beat us up all the time.  But he encouraged us to play sports. Matter of fact, he ordered us and he forced us and he made us play sports, because… it taught you discipline…. it gave you character. It taught you how to accept losing or winning. And so, that was something that we did since we were third, fourth, fifth graders and by the time we got to college and we’re now training…and running and living our lives with Mr. White”

Picking scene of McFarland USA with Kevin Costner

Coach Jim White was such a part big of their lives that he even was a “picker” quite often, this is what he said:

“…I’ve done it quite often. I didn’t enjoy it very much. …we didn’t do cabbage . We didn’t have that close to us. That was the only thing really that they had…available to show that type of work….It’s grapes and it’s oranges and it’s almonds and it’s cotton and stuff in our area, but those weren’t available. …That was a real good… part of the movie though.”

Thanks, truly, to Coach White and the Diaz brothers for taking the time to talk to us.

McFarland, USA, opens this Friday, February 20. I loved it and hope to see it again soon,



Silvia Martinez
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