Native American Drama From Ava DuVernay in the Works at NBC

Ava DuVernay-Shaz Bennett - Sydney Freeland – Bird Runningwater
Courtesy of ARRAY; Courtesy Shaz Bennett; George Pimentel/Getty Images; Kaz Kipp

NBC is developing a drama about a Native American family — a first for network television.

The project, titled Sovereign, comes from Ava DuVernay's Array Filmworks and Warner Bros. TV, where the Queen Sugar creator and Selma director has an overall deal. Writer-exec producer Sydney Freeland is a member of the Navajo Nation, and co-EP Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.

Sovereign has a put pilot commitment at NBC. The potential series chronicles the lives, loves and loyalties of a sprawling Indigenous family struggling to control the future of their tribe against outside forces and themselves.

Freeland and Shaz Bennett are writing the script from a story by DuVernay. All three will executive produce. Runningwater, the director of Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program, will shepherd the project with Freeland and Bennett and be a co-exec producer along with Array's Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes.

Freeland's debut feature film, Drunktown's Finest, won several festival awards, and she has directed episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Fear the Walking Dead and Starz's P-Valley. Bennett has written for Amazon's Bosch and A&E's The Glades and directed episodes of Billions and DuVernay's Queen Sugar. Her 2017 feature Alaska Is a Drag also won several festival honors.

Sovereign joins an NBC development slate that also includes a figure skating comedy executive produced by Olympic medalist Adam Rippon; an adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes from Norman Lear and starring Reba McEntire; and a drama from Blake Shelton and Fast & Furious writer Gary Scott Thompson, based on Shelton's song "God's Country."

The prolific DuVernay, meanwhile, is also exec producing an unscripted series for NBC called Home Sweet Home that will have families from different backgrounds switch homes, among several other projects in the works at Array.