The Queens of Entertainment Talk 'Queen Sugar'
LOS ANGELES - What happens when you get two of the most influential black women in the entertainment industry under one roof? The answer is simple, pure greatness.
Award-winning filmmaker, Ava Duvernay ("Selma, "A Wrinkle in Time") and the global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress, Oprah Winfrey met with the press at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss the second season of their hit drama series "Queen Sugar". Alongside them during the press event were two of their leading actors Dawn-Lyen Gardner ("Unforgettable") and Kofi Siriboe ("Girls Trip", "Awkward").
The contemporary drama "Queen Sugar", set in Louisiana, chronicles the lives and loves of the the estranged Bordelon siblings: Nova (Rutina Wesley, "True Blood"), a world-wide journalist and activist; Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, "Unforgettable"), the savvy wife and manager of a professional basketball star; and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe, "Awkward"), a formerly incarcerated young father in search of redemption.
In the second season, Nova, Charley and Ralph Angel struggle to move forward with their lives as they strive to honor the legacy of their father after his unexpected passing. Charley relocates to Saint Josephine Parish to help run the family business. As the only black female sugarcane mill owner, she must fight to regain her independence while rebuilding her relationships with her estranged siblings. Ralph Angel struggles to transform from a formerly incarcerated single father to a landowner in the eyes of his family as he tries to re-establish a relationship with his son's mother. Nova finds herself torn between her activism and her desire to be loved. As the season unfolds, the Bordelons must learn to rely on one another as they navigate the new reality of which they have been thrust.
Just like their first season, the second season of Queen Sugar will have an all-female directorial team, paving the way for film makers to come.
"I always say if Game of Thrones can have three seasons of all male directors, why can't we have three seasons of all women directors?" said DuVernay. "If they can do it, why can't we do it? We are going to center women because we can and we want to and we are on a network owned by a woman, so it makes it easier.
DuVernay also brought up the Bechdel Test, adding that the show's team likes to make sure that two women onscreen have a conversation that is not bout a man.
"Over 93 percent of movies and television shows have a conversation about themselves or about anything that they have in their mind that does not include interaction with a man," explained DuVernay. She continued, "That is something we try to change. Every episode of Queen Sugar has a scene that passes Bechdel, and every film I've done so far has had a scene that passed Bechdel, including Selma, which was about a man."
Winfrey shared with the press that she is proud of Queen Sugar's ability to finesse representation and equality that is needed onscreen, and that she relies on her trust in DuVernay's decision making and visions for the critically acclaimed show.
"One of my great gifts is that I am smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. So, I trust her, I believe in her. I believe in her vision," said Winfrey about DuVernay.
Actor, Kofi Siriboe described working with the two most influential black women in the entertainment industry as "surreal."
"Oh man, it is surreal, it is a blessing and I feel it is very divine. I have always had a large respect for black women. For example, my mom has always been powerful, ambitious, sensitive and vulnerable. The way my mother carries herself is so dynamic. I think that love and me just cherishing that energy in the world, is what I attracted me to them. So for Oprah and Ava to be what I believe is a reflection of that in every way possible, is just a manifestation that I am on the right path and that they are on the right path," said Siriboe. He continued, "With Queen Sugar having an all-female editorial and crew, it makes me feel good because, I am a part of that history and, it is because of that love for women, black women that I am just grateful for it. It feels right and I am just happy to be in the vortex."
The series is inspired by the book by Natalie Baszile. The debut season won the NAACP Image Award for Best Drama Series, Television Show of the Year from both American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), and was a People’s Choice Awards nominee for Favorite Cable Drama.
There will be a two-night event Tuesday, June 20, and Wednesday, June 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The series will regularly air Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT. If you missed out on season one of Queen Sugar, you can catch up on the complete first season only on Hulu.
Check out the season two trailer below: