Nova. Charlotte. Ralph Angel. These are the names you’ll need to know when Selma director Ava DuVernay debuts her new television series Queen Sugar in a two-night premiere on Sept. 6 and 7 on OWN. The show centers on the Bordelon family who are somewhat reluctantly reunited when the family’s patriarch suddenly dies leaving a family in chaos and an 800-acre Louisiana sugar cane farm in disrepair, and EW has the exclusive first trailer.
Nova, played by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley is the oldest sister, a healer and community activist charged with keeping the family together. Charlotte, played by Dawn-Lyen Gardner, is the cosmopolitan wife of a basketball superstar who returns home to seek solace with her family after scandal rocks her seemingly perfect world. Ralph Angel, played by dreamy newcomer Kofi Siriboe (Awkward.) is the troubled younger brother, recently out of jail, looking for work while trying to do right by his young son. Tina Lifford (Parenthood) plays the defacto matriarch Violet Bordelon while Omar J. Dorsey (Ray Donovan) plays her loveable younger boyfriend Hollywood Desonier.
“I don’t just cast for talent, I cast for spirit,” says DuVernay of her troop of actors. “They came together and created a family.”
DuVernay screened the first episode of the series at EssenceFest last month to raucous applause, a relief for the director who was concerned that the languid pace of the series would be a shock to audiences accustomed to today’s fast-paced network television.
“I don’t know how it’s going to do,” she admitted during a Q&A at the New Orleans confab. “You have to sink into it. It’s a different pace. It’s not going to go fast like a music video.”
Rather, with the a score by Meshell Ndegeocello, it develops its own speed, one that seems to embrace its southern locale with deft specificity.
The first season is 13 episodes, each directed by a female director as part of DuVernay’s efforts to bring up other female voices as she gains additional notoriety. Should the show perform well, she will try to recruit another group of women to direct a second season.