Ava DuVernay Reflects on Queen Sugar’s Impact

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Photo: National Portrait of a Nation (Getty Images)

If you’ve been an OG fan of OWN’s Queen Sugar, you’re probably heartbroken like us about the quickly approaching series finale. Since 2016 we have followed the lives of the Bordelon siblings: Nova (Rutina Wesley), Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) as they fought over ownership of their 800-acre Louisiana family farm.

As we sit on the edge of our seats and possibly shed a few tears in anticipation of the conclusion, creator and producer: Ava DuVernay is ready to close this chapter. “I’m proud of 7 seasons and being able to leave on my own accord, we weren’t canceled, we weren’t let go. It was just me saying that I don’t have any more stories. You know, they’re done. It’s a feeling of completion. That’s why I don’t feel sad, I feel satisfied because we did it, and we did it our way.”

The Root sat down with the famed director at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery 2022. The event awarded seven individuals: José Andrés, Clive Davis, Duvernay, Marian Wright Edelman, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Dr. Fauci with the Portrait of a Nation Award for transforming the history and culture of the United States.

DuVernay’s resumé is proof that she understands intricate and gorgeous storytelling. During Queen Sugar’s run, the show mirrored the societal issues that the Black community was facing at the time … from police brutality to inequality in the justice system. “I hope that we look back on Queen Sugar years from now and it’s a time capsule for Black American life at this time because we had so many issues,” she said.

Queen Sugar was not only phenomenal on television but behind the scenes provided opportunities for women to shine in television production. Post George Floyd’s death in May 2020, businesses across all industries promised their commitment to diversity.

When asked if the film industry is seeing more or less commitment to diversity, DuVernay didn’t hesitate, explaining: “Less. Yeah, it’s all kind of backsliding from commitments that were made during that time. It’s to be expected and we have to soldier forward.”

Despite the broken promises starting in 2020, DuVernay was ahead of the times, making it her mission since 2016 to make Queen Sugar an all-women-directed series. Seven seasons later, over 40 women have directed episodes of the show, a feat that is unheard of in the industry. “I’m proud of the women directors, all woman directors this whole run, people said it couldn’t be done. It can be done and it does matter, we made a difference.”

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