Queen Sugar Season 4 - Q& A w/ Dawn Lyen-Gardner & Rutina Wesley
Season 4 of Queen Sugar is premiering on OWN, June 12th , I recently got a chance to interview Dawn Lyen-Gardner & Rutina Wesley in NYC while at the third annual Split Screens Fest at the IFC Center. We talked about what to expect with Charley & Nova and things they were looking forward to touching upon this season! They were both amazing women that radiated such great positive energy while talking with them!
From the trailers for this season, looks like Nova’s book seems to be the central focal point/thread at least for the beginning of the season. How did that feel going into filming for you?
RW: I think I knew that towards the end of last season. I had finished [the book] and I knew it was going to be something because I was definitely putting our family history and things in there and it all comes out this season. The interesting thing is people’s reactions to it, because I think Nova has good intentions on why she wrote it. I think there are some surprises in there for Nova and that’s the drama of it
DLG: I definitely think [the book] is an explosion in the family! It really tests the limits of love and the family bond and even each other’s own reconciling of their history and each other’s past.
After you left off last season, what did you hope for in terms of story lines for your characters specifically or progressions for this season. Since this show deals with so many real-life issues and headlines, was there anything you hoped your character or the show would touch on?
DLG: I actually walked in without any expectations, without any sort of directive about where I wanted Charley to go or what I was hoping for Charley. I was really taken with where the writers took her last year, that she really is in this process of moving from the “me” to the “we.” So seeing her just evolve and stepping into seeking justice for a community, just sort of seeing her own betterment of herself, it was a beautiful thing to watch. So I was curious to see where [the writers] wanted her to go, where they felt was most interesting about her next leg of the journey. I gotta say it’s been fascinating, it’s definitely a season of reckoning I think for the entire family, but Charley in particular.
I see a lot of new guests and characters coming into this season from the trailers. How do you like working with new actors and dynamics for potential new relationships?
RW: I like working with new energy, new energy is always good. Old and new, I think we explore both of those things this season, where we have new guests, we have some people come back that we know and love. You mention love, and love is so far from Nova’s mind right. Now that I think if it, [when it] does come, it’s almost like a surprise. It surprises her, which is going to be interesting to watch. I will say we do touch on things like that, so it will be interesting to see how she juggles it all with the book and everything and her personal life.
DLG: There are some new people for Charley, there’s some romance brewing, and some sexiness coming. I think for [viewers], they are going to be like “Finally!”. It’s this dance of what’s happening inside the family and what’s happening outside the family, and how those two things are impacting each other. That includes romance, but also includes the social issues of the community and of the time and place.
How do you keep an emotional armor up before you get into the season with all the issues and things that you have to deal with playing these characters? How did you work towards that to ensure you don’t get too deep or separate things?
RW: I always learn to leave work at work. When I’m home, I’m home. I’ve learned in my career it takes me about two hours when I get home to come back down off of whatever emotional thing I go through with for the day. But you learn to navigate, because you can’t carry it with you everywhere. We have so much heavy drama and rawness that we have to learn how to channel it out just so you can get back to yourself.
DLG: This season has been both the most challenging for me in that respect, and I feel I’ve been the most successful about my focus on self-care. But it’s been really challenging because there is so much stuff in the past three seasons that are alive and well for Charley this season that is triggering in huge ways. I definitely need the time to come down, but it never really leaves me when I’m shooting the season. There’s a level of emotional investment and exhaustion that I sort of walk through while we are shooting. It’s a lot. It struck me this year just how much my body is holding stuff; holds information, remembers trauma. It’s just that intense because the show is just not dealing with family dynamics, but it is really looking at social issues and these pressures that are coming from the outside that we are all trying to process in the world right now. I’ve sort have accepted that this is part of what it takes to do a show and go on a journey with a character.