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The First Time Ava DuVernay Ever Cried In Her Director's Chair

"This is a tough moment for me to talk about."

As a filmmaker, Ava DuVernay is always thinking about opening and closing images, and her latest TV project, “Queen Sugar,” is no different. The opening scene from Tuesday’s premiere featured a very deliberate unfolding, beginning with a close-up of character Nova’s hair, slowly expanding out to reveal her in bed, and then expanding more to show a man sleeping beside her. As DuVernay explains in the above inside-the-episode clip, this type of leisurely pacing serves a clear purpose in the show as a whole.

“At the end of episode one, you are more deeply entrenched in the lives that you just bore witness to for the last hour,” DuVernay says. “It allows you to go on the rest of the journey of the episodes more emotionally connected to the characters.”

One of the more emotional scenes in “Queen Sugar” took place later in the episode, and filming it ended up being a particularly moving experience for DuVernay.

“This is a tough moment for me to talk about,” she says. “It is about the loss of a father, and I recently lost my father. It was one month after I shot that scene that I actually experienced that scene.”

The moment was so deeply touching for DuVernay, it moved her to tears on set.

“When I shot that scene, it was the first time I ever cried on set in my director’s chair,” she says. “I’ve shot a lot of moving things ... and I’ve never cried in the director’s chair. But what I was seeing through the camera moved me so much.”

DuVernay’s father died unexpectedly a month later. But during the scene’s filming, DuVernay wasn’t entirely sure where all that emotion was coming from. “I remember thinking, ‘God, what is that?’ I just thought it was the scene itself,” she says. “But I think there was something else going on energetically.” 

That scene also has another powerful layer to it, DuVernay adds.

“It represents something that I feel we don’t ever see, hardly enough, which is generational love between black men within families, the kind of tender heart of black men that are so often dismissed in mainstream media,” she says. “So, I offer that scene with everything I have to the audience.”

The two-night series premiere of “Queen Sugar” continues tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. You can also watch episodes on your phone or tablet.

Another behind-the-scenes insight:

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