Ava DuVernay Explains What Makes Her New TV Show So 'Radical'

"In that way, I feel like this story is important."

At its core, “Queen Sugar,” the new series debuting this week from creator Ava DuVernay and executive producer Oprah Winfrey, is about a familiar topic.

“’Queen Sugar’ is a drama about family,” DuVernay says. “It’s something that allows us to be ourselves and see the ways that we interact with our own families.”

The family at the center of the show, the Bordelons, are African-Americans who have roots in Louisiana, where patriarch Ernest owns a sugarcane farm that he bequeaths to his children, three estranged siblings. But, as DuVernay says, the show has been written so that you don’t have to be black, Southern, rich or poor -- or have an ounce of interest in farming -- to find the Bordelons relatable.

“This family can be stripped of its location, of its race, of its class, and still our hope is that you’re able to see a bit of yourself in it,” she says.

Still, DuVernay asserts that there is something particularly unique about “Queen Sugar.”

“It’s a vision of family that is different from the vision that I feel is so often offered on American television. It is told through the lens of black people,” she says. “We don’t talk about race in every episode, but the very presence of black people in these roles is radical in and of itself, because we don’t see them. There’s a dearth of those images. Fifty percent of this country don’t see themselves reflected on television in the everyday way that we relay.”

DuVernay adds that the impact of this can’t be overstated. 

“It’s vital,” she says. “It’s important that these images are made, that they are amplified ― not only for black people. For everyone.

“This affects the way that black people see themselves, but it also affects the way that we are seen,” DuVernay continues. “These images allow us to draw closer to one another. They are powerful and they affect politics, they affect culture, they affect our everyday lives and the way that we relate to one another. In that way, I feel like this story is important.”

“Queen Sugar” begins with a two-night premiere airing this Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6 and 7, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

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