On the heels of the Season 2 premiere of Ava DuVernay’s breakout OWN drama Queen Sugar hitting series highs last month, the cable network has renewed the series for a third season. Additionally, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker has signed a first-look TV deal with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films for television and digital media. The news is being announced today during the Discovery Networks portion of the TCA summer press tour in Beverly Hills.
The first project under DuVernay’s first-look deal is the recently announced five-part Netflix limited series Central Park Five, which tells the notorious true story of the men who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 rape of a jogger in the NYC park. The new pact further expands Winfrey’s relationship with DuVernay after also co-starring in the director’s upcoming feature Wrinkle In Time.
“I’m so proud of Ava and her ability as a filmmaker to challenge the status quo and push for inclusiveness on screen and behind the camera,” said Winfrey, CEO of OWN and Harpo. “I love, love, love the work we have been able to create so far. I am looking forward to developing many more meaningful projects together.”
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has been ramping up its roster of A-list talent in the past week in light of the pending departure of its most prolific scripted series producer, Tyler Perry. The network greenlighted a series from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil and also signed a first-look deal with producer Will Packer.
Queen Sugar, from Warner Horizon Scripted Television, which chronicles the lives and loves of the Bordelon siblings in Louisiana, is averaging 2.4 million viewers in Live+3.
OWN also announced a trio of recurring arcs for later in the show’s second season: Michael Michele and Roger Guenveur Smith will play the estranged parents of Darla (Bianca Lawson), and Beverly Todd will portray Mother Olivia Brown, a beloved and respected matriarchal activist residing in the 9th Ward.
Following a creative initiative established when the series began, DuVernay continues to assemble an all-female directing team. Set to make their episodic TV helming debuts with Queen Sugar episodes slated for the fall are Garrett Bradley (Alone), Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed) and Christina Voros (The Ladies).
“There is fresh air and room to roam,” DuVernay said. “There is an artist-driven atmosphere and an intention to share stories that nourish. There is a spirit of inclusivity and imagination moving at all times. This is the new era of OWN. I’m thrilled to continue to collaborate with Ms. Winfrey as we expand the scope of our storytelling. And I feel fortunate to be a small part of this network at such a wonderful time in its evolution.”