Ava DuVernay's contemporary drama Queen Sugar chronicles the lives and loves of the estranged Bordelon siblings: Nova (Rutina Wesley, True Blood), a worldly-wise journalist and activist; Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Unforgettable), the savvy wife and manager of a professional basketball star; and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe, Awkward), a formerly incarcerated young father in search of redemption.

But for the picture editing team of Sean Linal Peterkin, Alexander Aquino, and Alex Ivany, Queen Sugar has been about much more than the work. It's become a way of processing the grief of living through a time of collective suffering in the shadow of the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the push for a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

While filming for season five began in New Orleans in March 2020, production was shut down two days into the second episode due to the pandemic. As filming halted and the world faced multiple upheavals, DuVernay decided to completely reconceive the character arcs and storylines to address the very real issues our country was facing, writing alongside returning showrunner Anthony Sparks and co-executive producer Norman Vance.

Still, DuVernay said, the editing room is her favorite place to be. "Not the writer's table. Not the set," she explained. "The dark room with one other person where we create the final version of the story. It's an intimate, exploratory space that brings me such joy."

Queen Sugar was recently recognized by the Television Academy Honors for its powerful portrayal of an African-American family in the Deep South that sheds light on complex issues and challenges facing our society. The show was nominated again this year by the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Drama Series. The highly-anticipated sixth season will premiere this fall.

This season continues DuVernay's initiative since the series' inception to hire an all-female directing team, 32 of whom made their television directorial debut on the series. This inclusive hiring extends in front of and behind the camera, with female department heads from casting to post-production and music supervision.

For the LA-based picture editing team—all men of color—the opportunity to work on Queen Sugar grew out of their individual relationships with the award-winning filmmaker.

"From Queen Sugar writers rooms of past seasons, editors like Avril Beukes and Shannon Baker Davis have gone on to edit prominent feature films," DuVernay added. "This season’s editors of Queen Sugar—Alexander, Alex, and Sean—continue a tradition of curiosity and creativity that has produced beautiful stories for this series. I'm happy to continue growing the epic saga of the Bordelons with this team."

CineMontage recently got to talk with the editing team about the show's groundbreaking fifth season and DuVernay's influence as both a mentor and activist.

To read the full interview with the Queen Sugar editors, visit CineMontage.com.