The upcoming third season of OWN Network’s Queen Sugar will focus on the “journey of fatherhood,” the series’ new showrunner Kat Candler said at PaleyFest in Los Angeles on Saturday. “I’m excited about just watching the complexities of that relationship unfold,” she said, then raised some laughs when she added, “I’m excited about some godfather s**t.”
The Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay executive produced show explores the lives and relationships of three Louisiana siblings, and Candler is the third showrunner to join the entirely female-directed drama, which last season ended with the revelation that Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) may not be the father of his son with Darla (Bianca Lawson) – a storyline that will apparently loom large next season.
The revelation of baby Blue’s true paternity, and particularly Siriboe’s performance, apparently moved Winfrey so much she contacted him to tell him so. But the PaleyFest audience erupted into laughter when Siriboe explained that he didn’t respond. “I don’t know what even happened that day,” he said. “I didn’t watch it, I still haven’t watched it fully, it just lives in me so deeply, and I knew she wanted to talk about it. She texted me and I was like, ‘I don’t have much to say’….I don’t want to be fake, if I don’t have anything to say.”
Queen Sugar creator DuVernay has consistently championed women on this show, and said she chose Candler as the Season 3 showrunner because she’d directed “one of my favorite episodes” in Season 1, then in Season 2 “killed” directing the opening and finale episodes. “We knew each other from Sundance as independent filmmakers, and she came and did this episode – her very first episode of television. She makes these gorgeous films.” However, DuVernay pointed out, Candler’s film career did not mean she’d found it easy to get a job in television. As a woman, she found herself shut out. Until that is, DuVernay gave her a shot. Explaining that she hired “dynamic women directors, who so often have had doors closed to them,” she added the show’s newest helmer is Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves). “We’re honored to have her directing an episode. She just finished episode two of Season 3.”
The inclusivity of Queen Sugar became a main talking point of the evening, with DuVernay praising Frances McDormand’s Oscar acceptance speech, in which she called for everyone to use their “inclusion rider”. “I was overjoyed to hear Frances say that,” DuVernay said. “She didn’t have to, and to utter those words on an international stage and to dig into those things that many of us have been working on for a while.”
The inclusion rider is a contract clause that cast and crew can invoke that says, as DuVernay explained, “I will do this job for you, and you will also have a crew that looks inclusive and reflects the real world.” She pointed out this had never been in question on Queen Sugar. “Luckily we’re on OWN,” she said, “and everything that we do, from the offices to our sets really reflects different kinds of cultures.”
Asked by moderator Nischelle Turner whether the show was about a family who happens to be black, or a black family, DuVernay said firmly, “It’s a show about a black family, and I think that is valid and it’s beautiful,” adding that “it was the identity of the show we embraced very early, and our viewers are so evolved and fair-minded, they can look at it and say, ‘This is a black family and I can see myself in it whether I’m black or not.'”
Season 3 of Queen Sugar will premiere on Tuesday, May 29 and Wednesday, May 30.