Family can be the source of our salvation and our pain. In Season 4 of Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed series Queen Sugar, the Bordelon siblings return. Though we’ve watched, Nova (Rutina Wesley), Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) grapple with their present issues in previously, this season, we’re going to take a journey into the past. Nova’s memoir, Blessings & Blood is garnering traction and attention, but her desire to speak her truth has unforeseen ramifications for her family. Long-buried family secrets get dragged into the light–with unforeseen circumstances.
The siblings have grown accustomed to fighting the outside world. They’ve taken on the Landrys who have continued to harass them for their 800-acre sugarcane farm, and the law enforcement officers who keep their feet on the necks of the Black people in the county. However, this season, the Bordelons are going to have to take a hard look at themselves examining their own fault, failures, and past traumas.
Ahead of the Season 4 premiere, STYLECASTER chatted with Wesley, Gardner, and Siriboe about how their characters have shifted and changed since the series premiere, and how Nova’s novel and the “truths” revealed in it will crack the foundation of their family.
“I’ve always thought that the truth can sometimes be healing for people,” Wesley explained. “Whether or not they’re ready to face the truth–or be healed is the question. It’s a fine line in telling someone’s truth and forcing them into that process at a time when they’re not ready for it. For Nova, I think in her heart, her intentions are good. She really thinks her book will reach the community and help others. But, I don’t know if she totally thinks through the reactions that her family may have. It’s a lesson for her because your truth is not somebody else’s truth, especially without permission. It gets really interesting, but the beauty of it is that I hope people will also see how complicated it is.”
For Gardner, whose character Charley is directly impacted by her sister Nova’s revelations–the themes and storylines, this season were eye-opening. “I think it’s a tricky conversation,” she reflected. “It’s complicated because dealing with secrets can happen personally on an individual level, it can happen within a family, and then it can happen publically. I think part of what the writers wanted to do this year was to test the limits of loyalty and bond where love can move beyond betrayal, and love can move beyond the experience of being wrong.”
Traditionally in the Black community, like other minority communities–dirty laundry isn’t aired outside of the home. As a result, family secrets are covered up and can fester into deep-seated wounds. “In the Black community, there is a resistance to dealing with things,” Gardner said. “I think it’s important to press on and to push, and I think it’s a big part of what Nova does and I think that’s what she represents in the storyline. I think the story is asking us to reevaluate our values around this and to really allow it potentially transform us. The resistance is both cultural and very human. However, I do think it’s tricky to share someone’s pain or trauma when it’s not their choice to do that.”
For Siriboe, who stars as Ralph Angel, a young father trying to move beyond his fraught past–this season of QS has forced him to look outward. “One thing I feel I’m hearing is that there’s a lack of safe spaces to transform and talk about what we’ve been through to get to a place of peace,” he revealed. “I feel like if there were more spaces that were curated towards us and we had more access to resources, we wouldn’t feel the need to internalize everything and live with that weight. I challenge us to do that. That’s what Ava is doing with Queen Sugar.”
Siriboe reflected on his own personal turmoil that came with becoming a public figure. Fame forces you to relinquish your own safe spaces. “2017 was one of the hardest years of my life,” he revealed. “Just adjusting to fame and this new identity. I had to relinquish Kofi. That space felt like it was infiltrated and I also had to deal with the fact that I made that choice. That’s a lot to navigate and to unpack, especially when you have the world watching you… You realize how much brokenness and trauma there is that needs to be mended, and that’s a hard realization.”
Though everyone is affected by Blessings & Blood, Nova and Charley’s sisterhood, in particular, will be put to the test. Over the course of the past three seasons, we’ve watched Charley deal with the implosion of her marriage, the loss of her father, and struggling to get her business off the ground. Unfortunately, her battles aren’t behind her just year.
“It has felt like every year the devastation increases,” Garder stated. “It’s been a lot to walk through, my body has kept it. At the end of the day, these stories aren’t fantastical –they’re very real. It’s been really wonderful to enter this season in a very different place. This is the very first time we’ve seen Charley settled into her life. We see her happy, we see her exploring a new relationship. As the showrunner said to me, ‘Enjoy episode 1.’ I have enjoyed and appreciated her evolution since Season 1. I didn’t see it coming, but I am so grateful and privileged to be playing it because you’re watching a woman really evolve.”
The fourth season of Queen Sugar will debut Wednesday, June 12 at 9PM on OWN.