Queen Sugar's Rutina Wesley on Healing and Strength
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Wesley comes from a family of entertainers. Her father was a professional tap dancer and mother a showgirl on the Vegas strip. Although she studied dance and performance as a youth and later got her B.A. in Theater Performance, her grandmother encouraged her to take up nursing as an alternative to the volatile entertainment industry. Instead, Wesley applied to and was accepted by the famed Juilliard School. During that time, she spent a summer studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and also befriended Nelsan Ellis, who would later be her co-star on True Blood.
After Juilliard, Wesley was cast in the Broadway production of the David Hare play, The Vertical Hour, opposite Bill Nighy, and appeared in The Public Theater production, In Darfur. She booked minor roles in a few feature films before getting her big break on HBO's popular Southern Gothic vampire series, True Blood. Alan Ball, creator of the series, explains why he cast Wesley to take on the complex role of Tara Thornton: "[She] was the first person who showed [Tara's] vulnerable side."
True Blood, being one of America's most esteemed shows, aired for seven seasons from 2008 to 2014. In 2015, Wesley became a series regular on Hannibal and in 2016 was cast as Nova Bordelon on Ava Duvernay's family drama Queen Sugar. The show is based on the novel of the same name; it revolves around the lives of Nova and her two estranged siblings who must deal with the death of their father and the fate of his 800-acre sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana. With an all-female directorial crew and a deeply humanistic storyline, Queen Sugar has caused a ripple effect beyond the screen. "I feel grateful to play a character like Nova," said Wesley. "So many women have contacted me about how they've healed from things or how they're on their way to healing from watching my work and that's the best validation."
Wesley shares her honest process of learning to heal and making new discoveries as she plays the strong character as one of the Bordelon siblings.
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