The OWN drama “Queen Sugar” made its mark on TV thanks to creator Ava DuVernay’s decision to only hire women to direct the show, now in its seventh and final season. Variety spoke to all 42 directors (including DuVernay), who emphasized how her daring mandate changed the trajectory not only of their careers — with 39 of them getting their first episodic credit — but also of their lives.
“Talk about an empowered idea!” exclaims executive producer Oprah Winfrey about DuVernay’s revolutionary vision. “Talk about out of the box!”
Working on “Queen Sugar” had practical benefits: Many of the directors secured entry into the DGA, received health insurance and found representation for the first time. But the greatest gain may have been their newfound sense of confidence in their talents. That was a hard-won victory in an industry that has made it so hard, for so long, for women. Collectively, they refer to the changes brought about, thanks to the “Queen Sugar” initiative, as “the Ava Effect.”
Here are their stories.