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Ava DuVernay: Showing the Realities of Being Formerly Incarcerated Is a “Big Part” of Queen Sugar

Ava DuVernay appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night, her first interview since jurying the 2018 Cannes Film Festival (the first black female director to do so!). The Selma director gushed about watching the films, with a special appreciation for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, which took home the Grand Prix.

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The two also discussed Queen Sugar, the show DuVernay created with Oprah based on Natalie Baszile’s books. Specifically, Meyers brings up the character Ralph Angel, a character on Queen Sugar played by Kofi Siriboe who’s a formerly incarcerated single father. “It was so important to have a character in mainstream American television who’s formerly incarcerated,” says DuVernay, “so you can really see what we as Americans do to people who were formerly incarcerated.” The director’s Academy Award-nominated documentary 13th examined the ways the mass incarceration of African American in the United States and the history of the American prison-industrial complex. Her powerful efforts towards prison reform continue in the depth of Ralph Angel on Queen Sugar. She continues:

“You’ve paid your time yet you go out, you still can’t vote, can’t get a job, can’t get a student loan, can’t get public assistance, can’t even reach out to other people who might be in prison. Literally, you can’t even write a letter to another person who might be incarcerated—the rules are so horrible. We really need to change things, so to do that through our story Queen Sugar, to share with people what life is like is a big part of our goal for the show.”

Of course, one of the most impressive facts about Queen Sugar is its all-female direction team. DuVernay, naturally, has the best response to critics. “There were some people who were like ‘What about the guys?'” she says, “and I was like ‘What about the guys? Is there a problem?” Pointing to countless shows with all-male directors, she adds, “Why don’t you talk to those guys and ask them why they don’t have any women, instead of asking me why we don’t have any men? When you do that, then we can have a conversation.”

Finally (this interview is truly a gold-mine of DuVernay anecdotes and truths), Meyers asks the director about her upcoming DC superhero movie New Gods, to which she replies that it’s “[Chef Kiss] Muah! Sublime.” While it might not be as classic as some other comics, the director confidently states, “Once they know, it’s one of the most lush, the best ones.”

(image: screencap)

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