Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has a few smaller-scale films under her belt, but she exploded onto the main stage this year with her tremendous Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma. So how do you follow a film like that up? Well in DuVernay’s case, you go to television. Variety reports that DuVernay has signed on to write, direct, and executive produce a drama series based on the Natalie Baszile novel Queen Sugar for Oprah Winfrey’s network OWN. In addition to shepherding the project via her own network, Winfrey will also appear in a recurring role on the show.
DuVernay and Winfrey have an established relationship as Winfrey was one of the producers of Selma and also has a small but impactful role in the film. And the subject matter of Queen Sugar is certainly in step with DuVernay and Winfrey’s artistic interests, as it follows an African American woman and single mother struggling to build a new life in the contemporary South.
I think Selma is the best film of 2014 so while I’m happy to see DuVernay expanding her horizons, I do hope that she isn’t taken away from the feature film game for too long. Hers is a voice that is all too rare in the moviegoing landscape. But OWN has been struggling in the ratings since it first launched, so this would certainly give Winfrey’s network a much-needed boost.
DuVernay recently signed on to reteam with her Selma and Middle of Nowhere star David Oyelowo for a feature film drama that takes place during Hurricane Katrina, so she definitely has at least one film in active development at the moment.
It’s unclear if DuVernay will stay on the Queen Sugar TV series for the duration of its run or if she’ll craft the pilot and then step back into a more advisory role as the show moves forward. The report doesn’t note if this is simply a pilot order or a straight-to-series order, but since Winfrey owns the network, I imagine this thing is going full-steam ahead. Production is scheduled to begin later this year.