The highly anticipated OWN original series Queen Sugar was executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, and helmed by filmmaker Ava DuVernay alongside an all-female directorial team. Many of these directors hailed from the independent film community; however, after sharing their talents and expertise on Queen Sugar, many have become highly sought out episodic television directors. One can’t help but to be inspired!
“We seek + find + hire” – Ava DuVernay
Queen Sugar is an adaptation of Natalie Baszile’s novel of the same name and follows the lives and loves of the estranged Bordelon siblings in Saint Josephine, Louisiana: NOVA (Rutina Wesley), a world-wise journalist and activist; Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), the savvy wife and manager of a professional basketball star; and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), a formerly incarcerated young father in search of redemption. After a family tragedy, the Bordelons must navigate the triumphs and struggles of their complicated lives in order to run an ailing sugarcane farm in the Deep South.
The series will premier to a two-night event on Tuesday, September 6 and Wednesday, September 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN, and will regularly air Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT for the remainder of its 13-episode first season. The 16-episode second season will launch in 2017.
Meet The Directors:
Ava DuVernay: In 2012, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize at Sundance for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere and became the first African American woman to ever win this award. She also became the first African American woman director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2014 for her work on Selma, and was the first African American woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, also for her work on Selma. Her next project, The 13th, a documentary revolving around mass incarceration, can be seen on October 7th at the 54th New York Film Festival.
Neema Barnette: Barnette will soon be directing episodes of BET’s Being Mary Jane
Barnette is celebrated for making history as the first African American Woman to direct a major network TV sitcom (for an episode of ‘What’s Happenin Now,’) and is the first African American woman to receive a major studio deal (via Columbia Pictures, which is now a part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment). Over the past few decades, she has accumulated an immense body of episodic work that ranges from classics such as ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘A Different World’ to the current ground breaking series ‘Being Mary Jane,’ and has directed classic films such as ‘Civil Brand’ and ‘Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day.’ Barnette owns her own production company, Hope Entertainment, and has served as a professor at USC, UCLA, and is currently a professor at AFI. She recently started a web series with her husband called ‘Black History Mini Docs’ which are 90 second docs about black history, and will soon be directing episodes of BET’s Being Mary Jane.
Victoria Mahoney: Mahoney can next be seen directing episodes of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and American Crime, and Starz’s Power and Survivor’s Remorse.
Mahoney began her artistic career as an actress and has starred in everything from the classic series Seinfeld to the Blockbuster hit Legally Blonde, and also appeared in DuVernay’s short film Say Yes in 2013. Mahoney made the transition from acting to writing/directing with her powerful directorial debut, Yelling to the Sky, a classic independent coming-of-age drama about family, racial identity and survival starring Zoë Kravitz and Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe. In 2010, she was named one of Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and received a Golden Bear nomination, the highest prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. In addition to Yelling to the Sky, Mahoney was at the helm of ASPiRE’s talk show Exhale, hosted by Angela Burt-Murray, Erin Jackson, Issa Rae, Malinda Williams and Rene Syler. She also directed a short film titled Wrecked, and is currently in development with her second feature Chalk, which follows a person making peace with their past while finding murder suspects.
Tanya Hamilton: Hamilton will soon be directing an episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries and episodes of ABC’s American Crime.
Hamilton graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where she studied painting. Eventually, Hamilton switched her focus from painting to filmmaking at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and then went on to attend Columbia University. Her first short was the critically acclaimed film The Killers, and she went on to write the award winning film Night Catches Us, which took a little over ten years to get made. Starring Anthony Macki and Kerry Washington, this film revolves around an ex-Black Panther’s return to Philadelphia for the funeral of his father in the late 1970’s where he must confront his complicated past as a member of the Black Panther movement. This critically acclaimed film won the award for Best American Film at Sundance Film Festival, and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, four Image Awards, a Gotham Award, and a Chlotrudis Award. In addition to Night Catches Us, Hamilton directed an episode of Split Screen, a magazine-format show featuring inclusion among American independent filmmakers.
Kat Chandler: Queen Sugar Episodes 8 & 9
Candler is an award winning writer/ director. Her first feature, Cicadas, won the Audience award at the 2000 Austin Film Festival. Kat’s follow up feature, Jumping off Bridges, screened at South by Southwest, Jacksonville Film Festival and Cine World Film Festival. Her 2014 feature Hellion was picked up by Sundance Selects after playing the festival and earned her SXSW’s game changer award.
So Young Kim: Kim will be directing an episode of Transparent, and has booked ABC’s American Crime and the HBO comedy anthology Room 104.
Kim received the Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival for her debut feature, In Between Days, and her film For Ellen premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, Kim released Spark and Light, a short film starring Riley Keough commissioned by fashion house Miu Miu as part of their ongoing series Women’s Tales. In 2016 Kim’s film Lovesong premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Tina Mabry: Mabry will be directing original film American Girl for Amazon
Following the release of her critically acclaimed first feature film Mississippi Damned (2009), Mabry was named one of ’25 New Faces of Indie Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine and among the ‘Top Forty Under 40’ by Advocate Magazine. The film was successful on the festival circuit, winning top prizes at the Chicago International Film Festival, Outfest, American Black Film Festival, and Urbanworld Film Festival. It premiered on Showtime in 2011 and is currently streaming on Netflix courtesy of Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY.
Sali Richardson-Whitefield: Whitfield will helm an episode of the Freeform drama series Shadowhunters.
Richardson-Whitefield has an acting career that spans over two decades. She has starred in classic 90’s films such as Mo’ Money, A Low Down Dirty Shame, Antwone Fisher, and starred opposite Will Smith in I Am Legend. Recently, Richardson starred as Department of Defense agent in the Syfy comedy-drama series Eureka, and went on to direct multiple episodes of the series.