Selma co-star and producer Oprah Winfrey has teamed with the film’s director Ava DuVernay to create a new original drama series for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Inspired by the novel “Queen Sugar,” DuVernay is set to write, direct and executive produce the project in her TV series debut. Winfrey will executive produce and have a recurring role on the show, marking the first time Winfrey will act in a series for her network. Filming is scheduled to begin later this year.
Adapted from the first-time novel “Queen Sugar” by Natalie Baszile, the contemporary series will chronicle a spirited woman who leaves her upscale Los Angeles lifestyle behind to claim an inheritance from her recently departed father – an 800-acre sugar cane farm in the heart of Louisiana. Her world and identity are turned upside down as she and her teenage daughter attempt to navigate a new and very different environment while rebuilding their farm from scratch. She is met with curiosity and community, with resistance and romance. It isn’t long before a transformation begins and she realizes that she’s been living a lot farther from her Southern roots than mere miles.
“I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,” said Oprah Winfrey. “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,” said DuVernay. “To bring this kind of storytelling to life alongside Oprah for her network is wildly wonderful.”
OWN entered scripted programming through a multi-year exclusive deal with prolific filmmaker Tyler Perry. This marks OWN’s first scripted series that does not come from Perry whose soap The Haves and and Have Nots has been setting ratings records for the network.
DuVernay directed the Academy Award nominated feature Selma, which chronicles the historic 1965 voting rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey, Plan B, Christian Colson and Pathé. Winfrey also has a supporting role in the film portraying civil rights protestor Annie Lee Cooper.
DuVernay is the first African-American woman nominated for Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards for Best Director for Selma, in addition to Independent Spirit and NAACP Image Award nominations. She won the Best Director Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 for Middle of Nowhere. Prior to her directorial career, DuVernay worked as a film marketer and publicist for more than 14 years.