Cast members from the OWN hit show, Queen Sugar, with ABFF founder, Jeff Friday, following a panel discussion and the premiere of season two.
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMERICAN BLACK FILM FESTIVAL
By MICHELLE HOLLINGER
Special to South Florida Times
One of the most highly anticipated television series made its debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network last fall. And ever since “Queen Sugar” brought viewers the Bordelon siblings – Nova, Charley and their brother, Ralph Angel – it has not disappointed.
The cast was in town for the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and convened for a panel discussion following the screening of season two’s premiere. The packed audience at the Colony Theater gave several enthusiastic rounds of applause as each cast member was introduced as well as when the screening concluded.
Based on the novel of the same name by Natalie Baszile, the weekly series provides viewers a level of quality uncommon for dramatic television – black-centered or otherwise. Created, directed and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, the Louisiana-based story follows the Bordelon siblings and their efforts to maintain their family’s sugarcane farm following the patriarch’s death.
“Queen Sugar” airs on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). So sure that it had a quality hit on its hands, OWN renewed the show for a second season ahead of its television premiere.
In the series, Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley) is a journalist and activist from New Orleans. Charley Bordelon (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) is a modern woman who sees her personal life fall apart after her professional basketball playing husband, Davis West (Timon Kyle Durrett), is involved in a sex scandal. The trio is rounded out by their brother Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), a single father struggling with unemployment and the absentee, former drug addict mother of his child.
The siblings’ journeys, individually and collectively, include navigating an inheritance from their recently departed father – an 800acre sugarcane farm.
Fans of the show say one of the chief selling points is that the show’s creator and directors “get it right” with cultural nuances common to black families – like the Southern dialect and family supporting each other.
That dynamic is portrayed beautifully by Tina Lifford as “Aunt Vi,” who stepped in to care for her nephew’s son while he was incarcerated. Lifford’s character also offers other seldom seen dimensions for black actresses via her long-term relationship with the younger man, “Hollywood,” played deftly by Omar Dorsey.
Charley’s role reminds viewers of how an “outside” child (resulting from an infidelity) often becomes as much a part of the family as the siblings born to the marriage.
DuVernay, who also directed the movie, “Selma,” made headlines last fall when she brought in all women to direct each of the first season’s episodes. She is an outspoken proponent of including more women in the filmmaking industry, but one whose walk matches her talk.
During the panel the host asked several questions about what was to come, including whether Season 2 revealed if Charley would rekindle a relationship with her estranged husband or choose “every woman’s dream man,” Remy Newell (played by Dondre Whitfield).
The cast members also shared much about their journey working on the show. One major highlight included Durrett sharing that he was on the verge of quitting acting when he received the call he’d been cast in “Queen Sugar.” Siriboe also said he would always celebrate women because of his mother.
For many “Queen Sugar” fans, seeing the cast in person was surreal. The show was renewed for a second season, consisting of 16 episodes, which will premiere on OWN in a two-episode special on June 20 and 21.