After Selma, director Ava DuVernay said she was looking for a “soft place to land” and “have creative freedom” on television to tell a nuanced story of black life in America that did not involve action or car chases – which, she noted, are interesting “but they’re not everything.”
Oprah Winfrey named three books she would love to see adapted for OWN, including Natalie Baszile’s 2014 novel on which Queen Sugar is based. Speaking at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event Sunday, DuVernay noted that some changes have been made in the adaption of the book to the series about estranged siblings returning to their childhood home to take care of the family farm after their father dies. But it’s not a farm show, DuVernay joked.
OWN, DuVernay said approvingly, is an “artist-run network,” by way of explaining why she went with OWN rather than any of the other “nice calls that came from lots of places” when they heard she was interested in transitioning to television, which she said is in the midst of a “renaissance.”
OWN, she commented, will support a series about a family that’s set in the South, in which the main characters include an activist journalist, played by Rutina Wesley and a single dad who’s just out of jail, portrayed by Kofi Siriboe.
DuVernay said she’d delighted to be on OWN, as opposed to going for being seen on a “catrillion television sets.”
The series is noted for its decision to use female directors exclusively – both in season one and the upcoming season two. Dawn-Lyen Gardner, who plays NBA wife and manager Charley, said the series marked her first time working with a female director. “It changed my normal,” she enthused, crediting the female directors with an “emotional intelligence and sensitivity.”