Rutina Wesley has been cast as the lead in OWN’s new original drama series, “Queen Sugar,” which Ava DuVernay is shepherding for the network.
DuVernay will write, direct and executive produce the new original drama series that’s inspired by the acclaimed novel of the same name by Natalie Baszile, which chronicles “a spirited woman who leaves her upscale Los Angeles lifestyle behind to claim an inheritance from her recently departed father – an 800-acre sugar cane farm in the heart of Louisiana. Her world and identity are turned upside down as she and her teenage daughter attempt to navigate a new and very different environment while rebuilding their farm from scratch. She is met with curiosity and community, with resistance and romance. It isn’t long before a transformation begins and she realizes that she’s been living a lot farther from her Southern roots than mere miles.”
Per the press release, in the TV series, Wesley will star as Nova Bordelon, a formidable journalist and activist based in New Orleans. Her life, and that of her brother and their extended family, undergoes significant change when her sister, Charley, returns to Louisiana from Los Angeles to help run the family sugarcane farm.
“I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN,” said Oprah Winfrey, who also will have a recurring role in the series and executive produce. “The story’s themes of reinventing your life, parenting alone, family connections and conflicts, and building new relationships are what I believe will connect our viewers to this show.”
“From the moment I was introduced to the book, I was captivated by the idea of a modern woman wrestling with identity, family, culture and the echoes of history,” said DuVernay. “To bring this kind of storytelling to life alongside Oprah for her network is wildly wonderful. I’m excited about what’s in store.”
Production is scheduled to begin sometime this year.
After delivering its most-watched year (2015) in network history, OWN is set to build on that momentum with the addition of new original scripted series from top talent like “Queen Sugar,” as well as the mega-church family drama, “Greenleaf” (starring Keith David and Lynn Whitfield, which hails from Craig Wright, who’s known for his work on critically-acclaimed series like “Six Feet Under” and “Lost”) and “Tulsa” (working title), which will star Octavia Spencer, and will tell the story of the largest race riot in U.S. history.