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It’s been four years since Oprah Winfrey Network took over the Discovery Health Channel, and it’s been almost four years since The Oprah Winfrey Show ended, and yet somehow Oprah Winfrey herself hasn’t yet jumped to star in any scripted projects on her own network. Until now, that is. The media mogul is teaming up with Selma director Ava DuVernay for a drama series adaptation of Natalie Baszile’s acclaimed debut novel Queen Sugar. This couldn’t possibly make any more sense.
Published in February 2014, Queen Sugar centers on Charley Bordelon, a Los Angeles resident who inherited 800 acres of sugarcane-filled land in Louisiana from her father when he died. She and her 11-year-old daughter Micah pack up and move, only to find their lives flipped completely over as they’re forced to learn and grow accustomed to the lifestyle of sugarcane farmers. It’s not just physical labor, but also finding her place in the South within that community, and forming stronger relationships with her grandmother and troubled brother.
Winfrey, who will executive produce, is set up for a recurring role on Queen Sugar. We’ll just go ahead and presume that she’ll play the kind-hearted but opinionated grandmother who always knows what’s best. Here’s how she described the show in a press release.
I loved this book and immediately saw it as a series for OWN. 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.
DuVernay will also be executive producing, as well as serving as the writer and director for Queen Sugar. This will be her second trip into scripted television, as she directed a 2013 episode of Scandal. Selma, which starred Winfrey as civil rights protester Annie Lee Cooper, was the director’s third feature, following 2010’s I Will Follow and 2012’s Middle of Nowhere.
Despite the lack of Oscar attention, DuVernay’s career is now in many people’s spotlights, so there’s a really good chance Queen Sugar could gain some Emmy buzz and give OWN some original programming cred. The subject matter is strong, and it’s hard to imagine Oprah joining something that wouldn’t attract critical attention.
Even though Winfrey hasn’t taken on any fictional roles for OWN, her face is still all over the network’s schedule. She can be seen on Oprah: Where are They Now? and Oprah Prime and several others. As far as her next feature role goes, she’s set to play Richard Pryor’s grandmother in the comedian’s long-gestating biopic, should it ever come to light.
Queen Sugar is set to begin later this year, and it’s not clear when it may head to OWN’s schedule.