“We’re trying to do something different with this and I need a place where I can breathe and do that,” Ava DuVernay said of the family drama Queen Sugar, and why OWN was the best place for the series toplined by Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe and Rutina Wesley. “We need a place where we can have black people in the South, where the matriarch of the family is a waitress and one of the three major characters is a formerly incarcerated man,” the Oscar-nominated director added.

DuVernay was speaking about the all-female-directed series executive produced by Oprah Winfrey at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event last month at the DGA Theatre. The A Wrinkle In Time helmer was joined onstage by Gardner, Siriboe and Wesley.

Queen Sugar

Based on Natalie Baszile’s 2014 novel, the September 6, 2016-debuting Queen Sugar focuses on a trio of estranged siblings that attempt to deal with death and the ties that bind. In that context, the show, which returns for its second season next month, also deals among other things with issues of class, the politics of geography, the criminal justice system, race, sex and police violence.

For the three leads, finding the relationships to cover that canvas came quickly, says True Blood alum Wesley. “It was really important, I think, that when Ava cast that she cast for a spirit,” she said.

“We’re like kindred spirits, I feel like, just naturally, so it is really easy for us to connect immediately,” she added to approval from Gardner and Siriboe. “We can really get raw with each other and hug it out at the end of the day and you can’t always do that.”

Check out our conversation above.