You can have the best-written show in the world, but without a cast of actors who can properly convey the emotions and relationships between people in the story, your show is going to flop. Fortunately for Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar,” writing and cast combined in the kind of alchemy that makes for amazing television. Today, let’s take a look at the “Queen Sugar” cast and see just how they made the show so special.
Introducing the “Queen Sugar” Cast
“Queen Sugar” is the story of the Bordelon family, three siblings whose lives are thrown into chaos when they have to run their family’s farm after their father’s unexpected death. Together, the Bordelons weather the challenges of farming… in rural Louisiana. As one of the very few Black landowners in the area. The authenticity of culture and place is enriched by the fantastic acting skill and chemistry between the different cast members. In particular, the relationship between sisters Nova (played by Rutina Wesley) and Charley (portrayed by Dawn-Lyen Gardner) feels real because the two women were classmates and friends for years before appearing as sisters on the show.
The show’s authenticity surrounding social issues stems largely from its cast. The “Queen Sugar” cast is a diverse cast, and while it’s definitely a Black show about a Black family, a lot of the drama comes from intersectional elements that speak to more than just racial prejudice and other racial injustices. When you factor in that two of the Bordelon siblings are women, and one of them is a divorced mom, questions about identity become an even more important driving factor in the show’s stakes.
So who are the actors that we should know in the “Queen Sugar” cast? Let’s meet them now!
Rutina Wesley plays journalist and activist Nova Bordelon. In an interview with Blackfilm.com, Wesley discussed how much she enjoyed playing the passionate journalist, stating that “she has to figure out the fine line of when you really start to care about something… What do you do when you’re like, “But this is what’s more important right now in the world, and I want to change the world?”
Wesley took the role of Nova right after her star-making role as Tara Thornton on “True Blood.” After “True Blood” she went on to be a recurring cast member on “Hannibal” and guest-starred in “Arrow,” “The Walking Dead,” and most recently, “The Last of Us.”
Dawn-Lyen Gardner plays Charlotte “Charley” Bordelon, an LA wife and mom whose life is turned upside down when her basketball player husband is caught in a sex scandal. Charley’s drive and determination to be a good mother while navigating through heartbreak and betrayal is part of the beating heart of the show. Her relationships with her siblings and her son Micah shape many of the family’s interactions.
Before joining the “Queen Sugar” cast, Gardner had roles on numerous shows, including guest spots on “Crossing Jordan,” “Bones,” and “Castle,” and recurring roles on “Heroes,” Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” and “Luke Cage.” Even earlier, she had appeared as a child actress on several shows including “The Sinbad Show” and “ER,” and she graduated from Juilliard in 2003.
Kofi Siriboe plays Ralph Angel Bordelon, the recently released youngest Bordelon sibling. He has strong ties to his family’s land, but faces many challenges with the penal system and prejudice. He also strives to protect his son Blue from his former lifestyle and his mother’s self-destructive tendencies.
Siriboe’s start in the entertainment industry was as a model, and in addition to his work on film and TV, he can also be seen in Doja Cat’s “Streets” music video. He has appeared in eleven films since he started acting in 2003, including “Prom,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Girls Trip,” and “Really Love.” His television work includes guest roles on several shows including “CSI,” “Snowfall,” and “Insecure,” and recurring appearances on “Awkward.”
Nicholas L. Ashe
Teenage Micah has to deal with a lot. He’s a teenage boy in LA with a famous athlete for a dad, and then suddenly his mom pulls him out of school to go live in rural Louisiana after his father very publicly cheats on her. Any of those would be hard on a kid individually; together, they make Micah, played by Nicholas L. Ashe, a wonderfully sympathetic character.
Nicholas L. Ashe’s first acting role was that of Simba in “The Lion King” on Broadway in 2004 when he was just 9 years old. By 2012, he was a series regular on “Are We There Yet.” His 2016 role in “Custody” alongside Viola Davis led to directly to him joining the “Queen Sugar” cast as Micah. He was a series regular on “The Talk” and recently hosted “AfroPop- The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.”
When family patriarch Ernest dies in the first episode, Tina Lifford’s character– his sister Violet– steps up to lead the family. Aunt Vi is a loving, supportive family leader, but she’s so much more than just a caretaker or placid community pillar. In an interview with The Grio, Lifford noted that she enjoyed playing a fully-rendered role that reflected the kind of intergenerational relationships she grew up with.
A consummate, experienced actress, Lifford’s earlier roles include over 40 film roles and main TV roles in “South Central” and “Crisis Center.” She has had guest appearances on dozens of shows including “Criminal Minds,” “Scandal,” “The Rookie,” Minority Report,” “Parenthood,” and many more.
The “Queen Sugar” cast regulars also include such renowned names as Omar Dorsey, Timon Kyle Durrett, Greg Vaughan, Dondre Whitfield, Ethan Hutchison, Bianca Lawson, and Henry G. Sanders. The long list of guest stars includes names like David Alan Grier, Cree Summer, Brian Michael Smith, Glynn Turman, Erica Tazel, and dozens more.
The “Queen Sugar” cast is a huge part of what made it peak Black TV in the mid-2010s and early 2020s. To see more Black excellence, check out the BlackOak.TV streaming catalog. And for more info on Black actors and the faces of Black entertainment, follow the Black Content Review Blog.