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Sequim couple makes movie celebrating Jimmy Carter's mother, an activist

Lillian Carter was a social activist who worked for desegregation in the south, raised former President Jimmy Carter and joined the Peace Corps when she was 68.

SEQUIM, Wash. — You can tell by looking around their Sequim home that Carol Swarbrick and her husband Jim Dries are passionate about President Jimmy Carter. 

Their bookshelves are lined with books by and about him and his family. In fact, the two are so passionate about the former president that they made a movie about his mother.

Miss Lillian: More Than a President's Mother is based on the life of Lillian Carter, a social activist who worked for desegregation in the south, raised a president and joined the Peace Corps when she was 68.

Swarbrick and Dries wrote it together for the stage and then adapted it for the screen. They co-produced the film, in which Swarbrick starred.

"It's a timeless story," said Swarbrick. "It's the story of a flawed woman who did remarkable things, inspiring things."

Swarbrick, a Broadway, television and film actress, plays Miss Lillian with a sparkle in her eyes and a solid Georgia drawl.

During the project’s development, the couple asked the 39th president for his support, and he gave it with a personal touch. They still have the handwritten letter Jimmy Carter wrote back to them on a copy of the original letter they sent, a move that characterizes the former president’s frugality – and efficiency.

In the movie, Swarbrick's portrayal of Lillian Carter is intertwined with interviews from the people who knew her best. 

President Carter himself is in it, and he pulled some strings to help with casting. Sam Donaldson told the producers he said yes to doing an interview for the movie at the suggestion of the former president, who told him they were a “first-rate group.”

"Imagine getting that kind of support from an ex-president," Dries said. "He calls, and he's like help these people out."

After some meet-ups with the Carters – even a fishing trip with them – the couple had their movie.

“Pretty thrilling," Dries said. "I tell you when I retired as a teacher I never thought I'd be involved with a movie that would be streaming on television."

Miss Lillian: More than a President's Mother is a testament to following your muse no matter what your age. It's also a remarkable tribute to a remarkable woman.

“She stood up for her beliefs, and her beliefs were always equality," said Swarbrick. "Rich or poor, Black or white, Christian or non-Christian. People. Human beings. So I'm grateful that I've been able to tell her story."

You can stream Miss Lillian: More than a President’s Mother on Apple TV, Prime Video or Vudu.

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