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Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay bringing 'Queen Sugar' series to New Orleans

February 22, 2016


Oprah Winfrey, left, and director Ava DuVernay will shoot their 13-episode made-for-TV adaptation of the novel 'Queen Sugar' in New Orleans. (AP file photos)

Want to play ball with Oprah Winfrey?

"Queen Sugar," the Winfrey-produced TV series set to film in the New Orleans area from late February to mid-July, has issued a casting call for former college basketball players interested in appearing in the show.


Casting officials for "Queen Sugar," which is being co-created by Winfrey with "Selma" director Ava DuVernay, are looking for men of all ethnicities between the ages of 22 and 35 who have collegiate basketball experience. Current collegiate-level players and those with aspirations to play on the college level are asked not to apply.


"Queen Sugar," the OWN Network series that lists Oprah Winfrey and "Selma" director Ava DuVernay as its creators -- and Winfrey as one of its cast members -- is coming to New Orleans. The 13-episode project, which recently appeared on the Louisiana entertainment office's listing of in-state productions, is scheduled to begin shooting its first season Feb. 18 in and will continue through mid-July.


Based on the novel of the same name by Natalia Baszile, "Queen Sugar" tells the contemporary tale of a New Orleans journalist and activist named Nova Bordelon whose sister returns home to Louisiana from Los Angeles to help her run the family's 800-acre sugar cane farm after their father's death.


While Winfrey will reportedly play a recurring on-screen role in the show, Rutina Wesley ("True Blood" "The Perfect Guy") will portray Nova, according a recent casting announcement on Deadline. Dawn-Lyen Gardner ("Unforgettable," "Heroes") will portray her charismatic, jet-setting sister, who is married to a professional basketball star and with whom Nova has a sometimes-rocky relationship.


Kofi Siriboe ("Whiplash") will portray another Bordelon sibling who is an ex-con, with Omar J. Dorsey ("Selma," "Ray Donovan") playing a "rugged and resourceful" family friend named Hollywood Desonier.


DuVernay will write the series and will be among what she recently described to ReelBlack.com as an all-woman team of directors on the project.


"We're hiring an all-women directorial team, so (it will include) a lot of women that we know from the black independent film space that I won't announce yet," she said in an interview from the 2016 Sundance film festival. "But it's an exciting time to just invite women into the show and really try to tell this story of this family of strong women who do an amazing thing in St. Josephine, Louisiana. It's like a family drama, and I'm really excited about it."


The project will mark DuVernay's first foray into filmmaking for television, which she said is a welcome challenge. "This show is wearing me out, in the best way," she said. "It's a lot, but it's fun. It's like a 13-hour film."


Some "five minutes" after that interview, DuVernay said, she was headed to New Orleans for pre-production work. By Thursday (Jan. 28), she had shared a bayouside photo via her Twitter account, accompanied by the caption, "Sittin on the dock of the bayou ... #scouting #QueenSugar."


"Queen Sugar" is expected to air some time in 2016.

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