Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. ("Jerry Maguire," "Radio") stars in a new HallMark Hall of Fame film, FIRELIGHT premiering tonight, Sunday, April 22 (9:00-11:00, ET) on the ABC Television Network. DarNell Martin (HallMark Hall of Fame's "Lost Valentine") directs from a script by Ligiah Villalobos ("Under the Same Moon").
Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Dwayne Johnson ("DJ"), a counselor at a youth correctional facility. The incarcerated girls and young women come from troubled - often violent -- backgrounds. Many of them belong to gangs and have been involved with illegal drugs - as users and/or dealers. In the words of DJ, "They come in [here] so broken...These are girls who've been abused and objectified their whole lives."
Salvation for many of the young women comes when they join an elite band of volunteers who battle forest fires, build hiking trails in remote areas and assist during natural disasters. The volunteers have to survive several weeks of rigorous training, they have to be in peak physical condition and have to learn how to work as a team, often in life-threatening situations.
DJ explains that he developed the volunteer force "because I wanted to change the way these girls see themselves. To feel strong. To see other people respecting their strength." In the words of Cuba Gooding Jr., "These women fought to save lives. They ended up saving their own."
The team leader is Terry Easle, played by DeWanda Wise. Keisha Daniels (Yakina Horn) is another key member. Both are hoping Caroline Magabo (Q'Orianka Kilcher) will join the elite group, although she has considerable hurdles to overcome; she has a propensity for getting into trouble, which for a long time precludes her signing up.