January 27, 2003 12:00 PM

In 1971 Kevin Hooks was a 12-year-old actor making his first big movie, Sounder, and learning a few tough lessons. After checking in at a hotel near Baton Rouge, where the film was being shot, he put on swim trunks and jumped into a pool crowded with white children. “I swam from one end to the other,” he says. “I saw kids trying to get out, parents pulling them out. I thought, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I got midway and it hit me.”

Thirty-two years later, after establishing himself as a director on such series as St. Elsewhere, ER and Philly, he retains indelible memories of Sounder and its making. The Depression-era tale of a black sharecropper family earned Oscar nominations for Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield, and Hooks himself was nominated for a Golden Globe. “It all still resonates,” said Hooks, now 44. “I wanted to re-experience it.”

He got his wish, directing the remake airing Jan. 19 on ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney. To Winfield, this time playing a teacher, Hooks “is still Kevin, the bright young boy.” A father of three and married to Cheryl, 44, a media consultant, Hooks, son of actor Robert Hooks, 65, and retired state worker Yvonne, 63, has held on to the tattered script he studied more than 30 years ago. “This is the only thing I kept from the original. I want to have it and the new script bound together.”

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