Queen Sugar Director Lisa France on Big Drama & Surprises for Season 6!


In 2020, Queen Sugar, like many shows, had to shut down production due to COVID-19. But unlike other series, executive producer Ava DuVernay decided to completely revamp the season five storyline to address the very real issues our country was facing.

As Queen Sugar Season 6 has just wrapped up production in New Orleans, we cajole producing director Lisa France to give us spoilers, behind-the-scenes scoop, and insights into all things Queen Sugar.

The year 2020 knocked TV sideways, but Queen Sugar did a remarkable job of coming back and giving us dramatic, unique stories while having to film around all of the Covid protocols to keep everyone safe.

But it did mean that each Bordelon family member was filming in their own bubble. Will that change in Queen Sugar Season 6, or did the filming restrictions remain the same as they did for Queen Sugar Season 5?

Lisa: It will not. It stays the same in terms of our protocols and our behavior. However, I can tell you we noticed a dramatic shift in results of COVID tests.

I was the producing director this year. So I was there for pretty much the whole time. And, you know, every week, if someone got COVID, you heard about it. We all had to know. You’d get this email, and everything was private; we didn’t know who it was, but we, you could probably guess sometimes because of certain things not happening.

But you know, technically, nobody knew. And we got notification of a positive test quite frequently in season five. Actually, very frequently. And in season six, at the beginning of the season, we had a few. And then I think we got one the rest of the season, maybe two.

So, we know a vast majority of our teams are back and getting vaccinated. But we still have to follow protocol, though, we still have to wear the masks, and we still have to keep the distance, and we still did all the things, perhaps a little looser. A little, not crazy loose but a tiny bit, and we stayed safe, and we got it done.

However, shoot-wise, we shot like a normal season of episodic. So we shot episode 1 and then episode 2 and then episode 3, which we did not do last year. Last year we shot in pods. So we shot the Ralph Angel, Darla, and Blue. I think it was the Charlie, Davis, and Micah pod.

So anyway, yeah, we broke it up in pods, and also, we didn’t really have almost any background actors. Very, very few.

I was a background actor because we needed a person. I played a background job last year because we just, you know, we couldn’t bring people in. I think that was the last episode when Calvin gets arrested. I’m one of the police officers there.

Yeah, so that was fun, but yes, there were challenges. We were able to go outside this year and have background actors, not too many, but some, and we could space everybody out pretty well.

We were finally able to shoot in places that we know, like Vi’s Pies, you know, we finally were able to bring background in there. We went back to the council chambers; we were able to have some background in there.

So it’s kind of great. Got to feel a little bit normal. People still wore masks sometimes but less as the season goes on. So, you’re trying to keep up with the times.

Will there be any type of a time jump, or will we pick up right where we left off in Season 5? For example, is the pandemic still a part of the storyline?

Lisa: A little bit. A little bit of a jump, yeah.

After the first couple of episodes of Season 5, which I understand were filmed before the set had to shut down, the storyline with Parker trying to put the highway through St. Jo’s seemed to be scrapped in favor of stories that had the Bordelons dealing with more real-world events.

Will Parker be back, or is the show going to continue to move in a different direction?

Lisa: I can’t tell you. But I can tell you this; there is some legal thing going on. You know, as always, the land is under attack, and a lot of shit goes down. You’re in for a ride.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it, ever, what we’re going to see this year. No, nothing like this. No, no, no, no, no. Pretty crazy stuff that goes on with that.

Well, I’m just gonna broadly say legal things. That’s what I’m going to say. So yeah, it’s pretty bananas. What happens with our family, and all of the family actually dealing with all kinds of… again just kind of dealing with legal things. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry.

You know, it’s what black folks face with their own land in the South that they’ve been facing forever. I mean, look at what’s going on with farmers right now in this country. We went from 100 million black farmers to 1 million black farmers.

There was a special on PBS about the profound shift and decline for the black farming community. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking.

And you know, we’re gonna talk about it. We try really hard to stay with the current time and what’s going on. So you’ll see some of that in this season.

Most fans were shocked when Charley not only called Davis to help her when she was sick but then considered giving their relationship another chance. Was there always a plan to reunite Charley and Davis? What was the thought process behind them reuniting?

Lisa: People make mistakes, and I think that’s one of the things that Ava really wanted to look at. And talking about these things and our tone in talking about forgiveness and love and how it is really hard for somebody just to abandon them. Right? It’s so hard, and forgiveness is very powerful.

And redemption, what does it look like? What does redemption look like? Is Davis in the process of redemption? Is redemption real, or is it just a word that we use? Can you heal from real redemptive work? The actual work that Davis puts in is it legitimized through Charlie’s reception?

I don’t know about y’all, but I know so many people, so many women, so many men, that have forgiven their spouses, their partners, for something absolutely outlandish. I know people who have forgiven other people for murder! And maybe it’s not someone in their home but somebody else. So what does that look like?

And is it possible to have redemption, real redemption? To put in the real work that needs to be put in for redemption, and then, is forgiveness possible and will love flourish? I think those are all questions that we are looking at with that relationship. Does that make sense?

Yeah, absolutely.

Lisa: And I know it’s a tough pill to swallow for a lot of folks. But I do think it’s real life. I’ve seen it a million times, so I know it’s real. And I know people are arguing a lot about it! You know, you can hear it all, but it’s probably the quiet folks saying, “but I did that.” It’s a lot to throw away over one mistake.

I have to say I never thought I’d want to see Charley and Davis back together, and then when it was happening, I was fascinated by it, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how that storyline plays out.

Lisa: Yeah, I think we all are. I can’t wait to see it, and I know. I can’t wait to watch on Queen Sugar Twitter which is crazy and fun if you’ve never participated. Oh, it’s super fun. I love it; I stay up all night watching it.

Yeah, I think this season is going to be heavily twittered about.

Calvin turned himself in for beating a man while he was a cop. Will we be seeing Calvin again in Season 6? Is there any hope for him and Nova as a couple?

Lisa: No, ma’am. No. Spoiler alert! I can’t do it.

Well, I had to ask.

Lisa: Sorry, sorry. Oh, I love Calvin. But you know what, I think that it was beautiful what he did. I thought it was really well done. Actually, I was very proud to be part of that. Because we were there every day, you know,

Cierra (Glaude), Lauren (Wolkstein), and I were the only three directors last year. So even if we weren’t directing, we were there a lot. I was there all the time, as much as they would let me. And that was a very, very, very hard episode to shoot, and I think that Lauren did an incredible job with it.

I thought the writing was excellent. It was just cool. Good, turn yourself in. Do the right thing.

Ralph Angela and Darla decided to send Blue to school in Washington, D.C, causing a huge rift between Ralph Angel and Aunt Vi. Due to the Covid protocols, one of their worst fights took place over the phone! Will they be having it out or reconciling in person this season?

Lisa: You will see them together. Again, I can’t say what happens. But, yeah, you know, they’re always so good together; Kofi and Tina are just extraordinary artists. They really are. And they bring in this year, they both bring it.

There’s some incredible work. The entire cast just comes to the party this year. I mean, I can’t… Oh, I have a Rolodex of scenes just spinning in my head right now. There’s just s much to look forward to.

I can’t wait to see the long trailer that they put together for Season 6, like last year’s trailer for Season 5. I was like, Wow! We could do the same this year. It’s gonna exciting.

Violet and Ralph Angel’s argument was over Blue being sent to the school in Washington D.C. Is Blue going to be a part of Queen Sugar Season 6?

Lisa: Can’t talk about it. I’m sorry! You’re going to have to wait.

But, look, everyone is always a part of the season, right? It’s just how are they a part of the season? We talk about people we haven’t seen in three years, but we still talk about them.

I’m not saying that… I’m just saying they’re a part of the season, for sure; it’s just how are they part of it right now?

Queen Sugar provides viewers with diverse representations that we don’t always see on TV. Is there a certain amount of pressure that comes with that? How much responsibility do you feel to authentically capture the voices, experiences, and diversity of the Black community?

Lisa: You know I can’t talk about this particular thing in detail, but I can tell you that we went on location somewhere this season in an episode that I directed. Actually, multiple episodes where we went somewhere, which we finally got to do. And then I go somewhere in my episode that it really required an authentic eye and ear.

I called upon the people that work at the location, and literally, I had them sit next to me. Then I kept looking at them and asking, “Am I doing this right? Am I getting this right?”

Because it was incredibly powerful, and it was incredibly sensitive subject matter. It was an authentic situation. It was legit, and it was, you know, it was a very, very, very, powerful place that we went, and I just couldn’t… I was shitting myself.

Actually, I was like, “Wait, I’m gonna do this? Well, I hope I have some people there.” Because I’m very much that kind of director anyway, but we did the same thing in episode one, where Carmen had some really authentic things that she had to cover.

We also, you know, we’re always looking at what’s happening in the news. So the black farmer situation, we are constantly pulling up, what is happening right now in the news with black farmers, with black landowners, with black land, ancestral land. What is going on with that, in reality, right now?

So Anthony (Sparks) is a huge research freak. Ava (DuVernay) is a huge research freak, all of our producers and writers. So when we do our tone meetings and our notes, they tell us, you have to do it like this.

Like last season was fully pulled from the headlines every day. Whatever we did last year, it’s the same for this season. And then, of course, personal things that are in the storylines. They come from real people and real situations that Ava has pulled from real stories.

So whether they’re our stories that we talk to each other about, whether they’re from the cast and crew and writers and producers, they’re real. So things are very authentic, and if they feel authentic, that’s because they are.

Last season, we got some very happy moments, as when Ralph Angel and Darla got married, and then Darla telling him they were having a baby. Will there continue to be happy moments mixed into Season 6?

Lisa: Yeah, we had the wedding last year! And Darla’s shower, or whatever they did when they did their wedding shower. The zoom shower, that was funny. There are going to be some. There’s going to be some fun, and there’s going to be some happy.

How many episodes will be in Season 6?

Lisa: 10

Is there a premiere date set yet for Season 6?

Lisa: No, it’s gonna be in the fall.

Lisa, I’ve been trying to dig spoilers out of you, but you are holding firm! Is there anything else you can tease us with going into the new season?

Lisa: I’ll tell you one little thing that I can share. It’s not a spoiler, but it is an interesting storyline about a particular relationship that people are looking at because there’s an ambiguous thing going on about someone’s sexual orientation. Okay, so just keep your eyes on that one.

And I think, I think it’s really so beautifully done. I think the writing is amazing. I’m very proud of what they did, the writing, the writers’ room, the way that they pulled this off, and it’s so delicate, and really, it’s just beautiful.

That’s all I’m going to say about that, but Twitter’s gonna blow up!

All right, Queen Sugar fans! Hit that big, blue, SHOW COMMENTS button down below.

Tell us which character’s sexual orientation you think Lisa is talking about?

Do you agree about Davis’ redemption?

What are you hoping to see during Queen Sugar Season 6?

Until we get new episodes of Queen Sugar, you can check out all of our Queen Sugar reviews here at TV Fanatic!

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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