AFTON ADAMS, 40, white, half Afrikaner, half American. Afton comes from money- South African mining money. She’s hung onto the wealth, but is largely separated from her wealthy family, the Van Meders. One on hand, Afton is almost nomad-like in her ability to adapt. She’s friendly, curious about others, easy going and often amused by life. On the other hand, especially when it comes to fufilling a moral obligation, she is driven and unyielding. She has a battle-forged send of right and wrong that can led to tunnel vision. She is, in short, someone you might underestimate; but you’d only do it once. Right now, Afton’s mission in life is to teach Charlotte how to rise above the destructive and self-destructive fear that’s corrupted their family for generations, to show her how to be a different kind of Van Meder. To her, on this, failure is no an option.
THEODORA “TEE” BROOKER, 70, African American. Tee is a smart and capable woman, perceptive, kind, educated and possessive of a noticeable touch of old-school refinement. Outwardly, she is poised and unflappable. But inside, she lacks self-confidence and contentment. She has many regrets about what she could have done or been and mainly blames herself for her failures. She is now, very late in life, overwhelmed by her desire to give Charlotte everything there is out there for her to have. She knows , this time, she has to do things right– but part of Tee is still fighting the reality that this means facing the disturbing facts of the family’s past, facts which effect her perhaps as much as they do Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE VAN MEDER, 13, Afton’s nice, Tee’s grand-niece, biracial but heavily favoring her black side so you wouldn’t necessarily think she had a white dad. Which is fitting because he’s barely been around. Charlotte’s a girl with a big heart and a lot of sensitivity, but she’s quiet and very tentative, still suffering from being bounced around through life by unreliable adults. Charlotte is at the age where she is trying to discover who she is and have more independence. But at the same time, she craves adult attention, guidance and structure. And she is finally finding these things with the adults in her life. But there’s still a lot going on with her inside, unresolved, and she is still living in large part to avoid being hurt again.
GEORGE BROOKER, 60, African American, Tee’s husband, Charlotte’s great-uncle. George is a man who lives without those regrets he never did more, made more, was more. He is content with his life and himself. Despite being both worldly and generous, George views the outside world with suspicion and is slow to win over. He is an open-minded man who listens to reason, but on matters of right and wrong, he is uncompromising. And above all else, his protective of his family.
JASON DONOVAN: white, late 40s, Charlotte’s teacher; Jason is an upbeat man, positive, and confident. He is good at what he does and well-respected. He is friendly, but enforces rules and has high standards like all the best teachers do. He cares about each student sincerely and has a soft spot for the ones who are struggling. Personally, Jason is generally pleased with his life, but is also a man who believes that his best years could still be ahead of him. You’d never call Jason quirky, but he definitely moves to the beat of his own drummer. Since meeting Charlotte, he has become, outside the Brookers, the best influence in her life.
ERIC VAN MEDER, white, Afrikaner, Afton’s brother, Charlotte’s father. More than his sister, Eric has upper-crust polish and more dresses the part. But this is to an extent, just window dressing . There are layers of self-defense mechanisms to Eric: humor, charm, dismissiveness, aggression, denial- and they keep him going. He is, at his core, good-hearted. But he is always at war with someone or something, quite often himself, and accordingly, he is almost never at peace. He wants to be a good father, but he is not sure it’s in him to ever be one.
NADINE DAWSON , African American, 60s, Tee’s sister-in-law, Charlotte’s grandmother. Her calm and business-like exterior hides a slow boil of bitterness and disappointment. She is not an especially compassionate woman and carries quite a bit of emotional baggage. Her later life has been marked with personal failures and loss and with the unwanted responsibility of her granddaughter. She is determined to take care of herself as she has no one else to do it for her.
BERNARD GOMES, 50-60s, can be of any race; George’s co-worker; talks too much and often overstays his welcome, but is absolutely oblivious to that fact; nosey and eager to be in on other people’s business; dispenses advice freely and almost always without being asked; not particularly wise but oddly perceptive about George and his family situation.
SINDISWA MBATHA (can be doubled by actor playing Charlotte), 15, South African, an orphan, puts on a front of being tough, but wants approval and guidance; resourceful, intelligent, tenacious; mature because she’s had to be; seen a lot but beginning to believe she can control her own destiny and be a leader
Setting: Contemporary times, a suburb of Boston, springtime.