Proving once again that television really is where all the most exciting stories are being told, this Tuesday the Oprah Winfrey Network will debut its new original series Queen Sugar , created by Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Winfrey herself. After being snubbed for a Best Director Academy Award nomination for her 2014 Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic, perhaps it's no surprise that DuVernay turned her attention to the small screen, where diversity has ironically been on much bigger display these days than in the movies. DuVernay and Winfrey used their combined prowess to draw some incredible talent to their new series, making the Queen Sugar cast one of the most exciting casts of the fall season.
But first, a brief summary: Queen Sugar takes place in the heart of Louisiana, where the three estranged Bordelon siblings — Nova, Charley, and Ralph Angel — reunite after their father suffers a stroke in order to help with his sugarcane farm. Together, they not only have to figure out how to repair their relationships with each and with other members of the community, but how to run a sugarcane farm in America's Deep South. It's a compelling set-up that promises a potent cocktail of juicy family drama and insightful social commentary… and it should be made even more compelling by these 10 talented actors:
1. Rutina Wesley as Nova Bordelon
Wesley will be by far the most recognizable face to modern television audiences, thanks to her starring role in all seven seasons of HBO's True Blood as Sookie Stackhouse's best friend-turned-vampire, Tara Thornton. Since that supernatural series ended in 2014, the actress has appeared in a recurring arc as the Tooth Fairy's blind girlfriend Reba McClane in Season 3 of Hannibal, in the 2015 thriller The Perfect Guy, and in one episode of The CW's Arrow. In Queen Sugar, Wesley will portray Nova, "a journalist, activist and herbal healer," according to the show's official website.
2. Dawn-Lyen Gardner as Charley Bordelon West
The woman who plays the second Bordelon sister (Charley, an "LA native" and the wife of a major basketball star) may not be as well-known as Wesley yet, but that could all change thanks to Queen Sugar. So far, Gardner's resumé consists mostly of guest roles on various television dramas, including Bones, Castle, and Heroes, some voice work on the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and an appearance in the upcoming Netflix series Marvel's Luke Cage.
3. Kofi Siriboe as Ralph Angel Bordelon
The third and final of the Bordelon siblings is Ralph Angel, who has "recently been released from prison and is facing all the challenges that entails in addition to raising his 6-year-old son." Sibioe has had minor roles in two major recent Oscar contenders — 2014's Whiplash and 2015's Straight Outta Compton — in addition to a recent recurring role on MTV's Awkward as Lissa's adopted brother… and crush! (No, their last name isn't Lannister.)
4. Dondré T. Whitfield as Remy Newell
Like Gardner, Whitfield has also guest starred on many of your favorite TV shows; including The X-Files, Ghost Whisperer, Grey's Anatomy, The Event, and Hart Of Dixie. His most recent role has been as Paul, April's husband on ABC's summer soap Mistresses. On Queen Sugar, he will play Remy, "an irrigation specialist who was a friend and confidante to the Bordelon family patriarch."
5/6. Tina Lifford as Violet Bordelon &Omar J. Dorsey as Hollywood Desonier
Violet is the aunt of the three Bordelon siblings; she is played by Lifford, who has been a reliable presence in Hollywood for over three decades. Starting off with guest roles on some of TV's most acclaimed programs (Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Murder She Wrote), she has gone on to a number of supporting parts in both film (Grand Canyon, Babe, Pay It Forward) and television (Family Law, Parenthood, Scandal).
Dorsey was recently seen on TV in the NBC drama Aquarius, the Showtime series Ray Donovan, and the short-lived FOX dramedy Rake. You may have also seen him in small roles in such Oscar contenders as The Blind Side, Django Unchained, and Selma — where he must have met Queen Sugar creator DuVernay. Speaking of her show, Dorsey will be portraying Hollywood, Violet's "younger lover, who is a strong supporter of the Bordelon family."
7. Greg Vaughan as Calvin
Vaughan's first major role was on Season 2 of Charmed as Dan, the new next door neighbor to the three Halliwell sisters. After that, the former fashion model quickly made a career in daytime soaps, starring for many years on The Young And The Restless, General Hospital, and finally Days Of Our Lives, which he just wrapped a four-year stint on this April. (He was playing Eric Brady, a role formerly played by Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles before his departure.) Here he'll be playing Calvin, "a married police officer who is Nova Bordelon’s longtime lover."
8. Timon Kyle Durrett as Davis West
Durrett's role on Queen Sugar will be that of Charley's husband Davis, "a charismatic star basketball player." The OWN drama will be his first series regular role, although he has previously appeared on the likes of Heroes, Samantha Who?, Ghost Whisperer, and Castle, as well as in this spring's sequel Barbershop: The Next Cut.
9. Bianca Lawson as Darla
Lawson started her television career in 1993 with the starring role of Megan Jones on the NBC spinoff Saved By The Bell: The Next Class. Since then, you may have seen her in episodes of My So-Called Life, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dawson's Creek, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Nikita, American Horror Story, Teen Wolf, and many, many more. On Queen Sugar, she'll play Darla, the mother of Ralph Angel's son Blue, and "a young woman struggling with addiction who desperately seeks reconnection" with her family.
10. Glynn Turman as Ernest Bordelon
Finally, we have the Bordelon patriarch himself, played in a recurring role by the legendary Glynn Turman. Turman has been working in Hollywood for 55 years, but his acting career stretches even farther back than that: he got his professional start at the age of 13 in the original 1959 Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin In The Sun, alongside Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. His credits are too many and varied to list here, but some of his most recent acclaimed work includes HBO's The Wire, where he played Baltimore mayor Clarence Royce, HBO's In Treatment, which earned him an Emmy Award for Guest Actor, and Showtime's House Of Lies, which he wrapped after five seasons earlier this summer.
Don't miss this terrific cast in action when Queen Sugar premieres this Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 10:00 p.m. ET on OWN.
Images: Andrew Dosunmu, Patti Perrett (2), Skip Bolen (3)/OWN