Ava DuVernay Breaks Down the Explosive Fight Between Nova and Charley

Season 1 Episode 102
CC | tv-pg
When family members come to blows, their true feelings often rise to the surface. In the first episode of Queen Sugar, Charley and Nova don't see each other until the final moments, shortly after Ernest, their father, passes away. In Episode 2, when the sisters begin planning the funeral, you see that there may be long-standing contentious feelings that have gone unexpressed for years.

"It's just really special to work with Rutina and Dawn individually, but when they get together, something really, really special happens," Ava says. "They study together, they've performed together in the past, and they're friends and sisters in real life. And they fall into these roles in a way that's deeper than would be if these were two actresses who had never met each other."

That unique chemistry is on display in the second episode. "In the first episode the sisters are not together at all until the very end, when they hug in the hospital. In the second episode, it's about who everyone is and their relationships to each other," Ava continues. "So through this explosion of emotion between Charley and Nova at Aunt Violet's house, we get to really see what they think of each other, having been away from each other for too long."

About the intense showdown, Ava says, "It's an explosive scene, and it was an explosive day on set. Those are the days that you love, when you've got great actors in their prime doing it, you know, really feeling the material and going for it fearlessly."

Additionally, Ava discusses the quieter confrontation between Violet and Ralph Angel that occurs later in the episode. "[That's] a really special one because of the look on Ralph Angel's face in the bathroom when he knows that he has to go outside and talk to Aunt Violet," Ava says. "He knows that she's upset about Darla coming back into Blue's life, and then she really just unleashes on him in a way that's hurtful to him."

Ava hints that Violet plays a bigger role in Blue and Ralph Angel's backstory than has yet been revealed. "As you start to understand how Blue came to be with Aunt Violet as the story unfolds, you understand why she's so upset more and more, and [Ralph Angel is] in a really fragile place, being just six months out of prison," Ava says. "I think it hurts him more because it's her."

Finally, Ava opens up about her intentions in the final scene of Episode 2, when the family gathers for Ernest's funeral, dressed in white. "In the black community, many of us call it a homegoing, that that person has gone home and that while it is sad for us who are left here, the person has moved on," Ava says. "It's a celebration of life, and so, in that way, the idea that everyone wears white felt right. What we try to do in Queen Sugar is invite you into the intimate spaces of the life of this family, of the life of African-Americans in different ways, and when they sit there in that homegoing, saying goodbye to their loved one, and they are all in that row, you know that they are together and the story really begins."