“When Queen Sugar came on, there weren’t a lot of shows depicting love in a nuanced way anyway and
especially among Black families and Black characters,” says Rutina Wesley, who plays feisty and free
Nova Bordelon on the series. Since its debut seven seasons ago in September 2016, Queen Sugar has taken viewers
on an emotional journey through both trauma and healing.

Set in the fictional St. Josephine Parish in Louisiana, not far from New Orleans, Queen Sugar revolves
around the Bordelon family which also includes siblings Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) and Charley (Dawn-
Lyen Gardner) as well as their late father Ernest Bordelon’s (Glynn Turman) sister, their aunt Vi (Tina
Lifford), and her husband Hollywood (Omar Dorsey), along with Charley’s son Micah (Nicholas Ashe) and
Ralph Angel’s son Blue (Ethan Hutchinson) with Blue’s mother and now Ralph Angel’s wife Darla (Bianca
Lawson), among others. One of the show’s central themes has been protecting their land from The
Landrys, the greedy white family who essentially lord over the area. And to do that, they have had to
come together. But in-between that struggle is a lot of emotional ups and downs. Instead of shying away
from it, Queen Sugar has continuously met it head-on and embraced it.

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey loved Natalie Baszile’s book and believed it could be made into a series. So
she handpicked Ava DuVernay to convert it into a TV series. Not only did DuVernay make it happen, but
she also made history while doing it. Her mandate to have only women direct the show has been an
industry game-changer. Even more important, it has resulted in emotional depths centering Black
people that have never been captured on screen.

“I look at Ralph Angel and Darla’s characters and you get to see two people who have really challenging
histories and how they fight for each other, and actually do the work to be together,” Wesley explains. “I
think sometimes we just see the joy in couples, but we don't see the work that goes into it, which I think
is the nuanced storytelling that we've done. Especially with Ralph Angel and Darla, I think it's beautiful
to see them both come out of that, and, you know, for Darla to be a wife and a mother and to have a
family that is solid and to have two people that trust each other with everything, and really know each
other and support each other. They're like my favorite couple when it comes to talking about Black love,
like that’s a good depiction of it. We usually see all the flaws in love, but we really don't see people
come on the other side of those flaws in triumph.”

As for her character Nova, Wesley has brought a fluid Black woman to TV who has freely loved a white
man, other Black women and Black men. On top of that, she is an activist who fiercely loves her
community. And, of course, she loves her family.

“Playing Nova has meant everything to me. I think because of what she represents,” she says. “I've
actually met women who are like ‘I’m the real Nova’ and that has been so touching to me. When
someone can see themselves reflected back in you, it's amazing. You feel seen as a human being. And,
so, playing her has made me see myself in ways that I didn't see. It’s made me pay more attention to the
world, and what's going on. And it's made me love myself more.”

“Family has its challenges, love has its challenges, and sexuality has its challenges. Being an activist has
its challenges. I love that we picked apart Nova and every little part of her so we could actually see how
she got there and then see how she got to where she is now [in] season seven,” she shares.

Still Wesley admits that the fallout from Nova writing the tell-all book about her family in season four
was far from fun. “It just was crushing,” she confesses. “That might have been the hardest season for
me. I’m such an empath. Like I feel things. I didn't like being the guy that no one liked or wanted to be
around. I'm such an empath. I feel things. It sucked. I was like ‘no one likes me. Like this is horrible.’ But
we needed to show that because through communication and people using their voices and speaking up
about their feelings, as a family, the Bordelons are able to get past it. They didn't have to do it in
forgetting necessarily, but they were able to move on from it and forgive Nova in a sense. And it shifted
Nova in such a way that now she won't ever write anything again without asking somebody's

“Love is sometimes standing up to a family member and telling them no,” she also says. “Love is not
running away. When things got hard Nova didn't run. I think it was the hardest thing she had to do. To
face her family, that was the hardest thing I think I've seen her do.”

“She had to take full responsibility for what she did, but she also had to endure the consequences of her
family giving her tough love, which kind of seems like no love at all,” she adds.

Still the book served a greater purpose in the end, Wesley insists. Had Nova never written the book,
“would we have ever healed?” she asks. “Because now here we are on the other side of the book, and
people are healing and people are thankful that she wrote it.”

Going into this seventh and final season, Nova’s new love Dominic (McKinley Freeman) from season six
is still in the mix. “It's going to be interesting to see how Nova navigates her relationship with Dominic,”
she teases. “I think Dominic is somebody who got into her head and into her soul. And he connected
with her in a way that she hadn't been connected with before.”

“She loved Calvin immensely,” she explains further, “and he might have been her first love. But Dominic
loved her mind first and he loved just who she was as a woman. And I think that really stuck with her
because she was like, ‘Oh, he sees me first before he sees me. He's seeing my mind and the things that I
want to do as a woman rather than the physical.’”

And while she says Calvin may very well have been Nova’s first love, Dominic seems to be the person
she needs now. One of the things that’s most refreshing is how he “is not afraid to communicate back to
her the things that she's doing and is not afraid to tell her what he sees. And I think Nova is learning to
stay in the room and take it.”

Queen Sugar, shares Wesley, who first came to prominence as Tara Thornton on True Blood, which also
ran for seven seasons, has been an even bigger blessing to her both professionally and personally.
Queen Sugar is a show about my people, for my people, and I get to be a part of the community,” she

While “it’s a bittersweet ending, I love Nova. I love Queen Sugar,” she beams. “It just showed me the
beauty of our community and the beauty of our people and people seeing the show in a way that could
actually help them as human beings,” she explains. “She’s meant everything to me.”

Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The
Wire During Black Lives Matter.