Photo: Courtesy of OWN
Photo: Courtesy of OWN

When Ava DuVernay set out to make Queen Sugar, the director of the Oscar-nominated Selma and Netflix documentary 13th realized she wouldn’t have time to direct the entire show herself. As she reflected on whom to trust with her TV adaptation of Natalie Baszile’s novel, the names that popped up in her head were filmmakers she’d known and admired through the independent-film festival circuit and other Hollywood circles. She wasn’t thinking about gender, but in the end, she quietly swung open a door for women in the TV industry when she hired only women to direct the 13 episodes of OWN’s critically acclaimed first season. 

“It wasn’t — let’s find all women,” DuVernay said.It was more like, I would really love Kat Candler to do it. Wouldn’t Victoria Mahoney kill it? Would Tanya Hamilton be interested? What would So Yong Kim do with Ralph Angel? My mind started working that way.” When DuVernay told executive producer Oprah Winfrey what she was thinking, Winfrey replied, “Yes! Let’s do this!”

“Diversity is real and possible,” Winfrey told Vulture in an email. “The power of the feminine energy to come together to put this art into the world comes through in this series. It is extremely powerful.”

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