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Oprah, Ava DuVernay producing OWN series Queen Sugar starring Rutina Wesley

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Rutina Wesley is linking up with Selma director Ava DuVernay for a new OWN series. The former True Blood star will be a series regular in Queen Sugar, based off Natalie Baszile’s novel of the same name.

The 36-year-old Wesley will play Nora Bordelon, a New Orleans-based journalist and activist. Her family’s life changes when her sister Charley moves back from Los Angeles to help tend to the family’s sugarcane farm.

Along with executive producing with network founder Oprah Winfrey, DuVernay penned the pilot and will direct a few season 1 episodes. 

After True Blood, Wesley recurred in season 3 of Hannibal on NBC as well as having a one-episode turn in Arrow. She also co-starred in The Perfect Guy along with Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, and Morris Chestnut. Wesley has performed onstage extensively and was a graduate of Juilliard’s drama division.

Queen Sugar the novel was released in January 2015. It focuses on the life of the Bordelon siblings: Nora; Charley, the wife and manager of an NBA player; and Ralph Angel, an ex-con young father trying to change his ways. Within a month of the book’s release, DuVernay and Winfrey teamed up to adapt the series. Both were huge fans.

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“I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,” Winfrey said at the time. “The story’s themes of reinventing your life, parenting alone, family connections and conflicts, and building new relationships are what I believe will connect our viewers to this show.”

“From the moment I was introduced to the book, I was captivated by the idea of a modern woman wrestling with identity, family, culture and the echoes of history,” DuVernay added last February. “To bring this kind of storytelling to life alongside Oprah for her network is wildly wonderful. I’m excited about what’s in store.”

The initial announcement also indicated Winfrey would have a recurring role in the series, which is still unannounced.

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