'Queen Sugar' Renewed as Ava DuVernay Inks Expanded Harpo Deal

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Koury Angelo

The always-in-demand Ava DuVernay is staying put at OWN, securing a third season for her critical darling Queen Sugar. The network on Wednesday announced a renewal for DuVernay's family drama, timed to a new deal with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films.

The expansion of their current partnership finds DuVernay in a first-look deal at Winfrey's production shingle for TV and digital media. Harpo Films, which co-produces Queen Sugar with Warner Horizon Scripted Television, is also on board DuVernay's recently announced Netflix limited series Central Park Five.

“I’m so proud of Ava and her ability as a filmmaker to challenge the status quo and push for inclusiveness onscreen and behind the camera," Winfrey, CEO of both OWN and Harpo Films, said in a statement. "I love, love, love the work we have been able to create so far. I am looking forward to developing many more meaningful projects together."

Queen Sugar's renewal was something of a given. It regularly ranks among the top five most-watched series on cable and continues to bring critical praise. But the timing of Harpo Film's deal with DuVernay represents a bit of future-proofing over at OWN. Tyler Perry, the creator of the network's top-rated dramas and comedies, recently announced a new overall deal at Viacom that will take him away from OWN in 2019. (His shows will stay on through 2020.) Just 24 hours before news of DuVernay's OWN deal, prolific producer Will Packer inked his own first-look TV deal at OWN.

Winfrey is co-creator of Queen Sugar, the Louisiana-set drama that heralded DuVernay's expansion into television. Since the series' successful launch in 2016, DuVernay has also released Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentary 13th, filmed Disney's upcoming tentpole A Wrinkle in Time and started work on Central Park Five. (She is set to write and direct the five-part series, which will tell the story of the five young black men wrongly convicted of murder in 1990.)
"There is fresh air and room to roam," said DuVernay. "There is an artist-driven atmosphere and an intention to share stories that nourish. There is a spirit of inclusivity and imagination moving at all times. This is the new era of OWN. I'm thrilled to continue to collaborate with Ms. Winfrey as we expand the scope of our storytelling. And I feel fortunate to be a small part of this network at such a wonderful time in its evolution."

As for the current season of Queen Sugar, one that sees DuVernay again enlisting an all-female directing staff with several TV newcomers, OWN also announced that actors Michael Michele, Roger Guenveur Smith and Beverly Todd will formally join the series in recurring roles this summer. (Directors Garrett Bradley, Liesl Tommy and Christina Voros are also confirmed to helm season-two episodes.)

DuVernay is repped by CAA and attorney Nina Shaw of Del Shaw.