Oprah Winfrey was once all for talking about diversity, but now the media mogul wants to shift the conversation toward inclusion.
In a joint interview with filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who directed Queen Sugar for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Winfrey got frank about issues of race and representation, both on and off screen.
“I used to use the word ‘diversity’ all the time. ‘We want more diverse stories, more diverse characters …,’ ” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Now I really eliminated it from my vocabulary because I’ve learned from [Ava] that the word that most articulates what we’re looking for is what we want to be: included.”
She added, “It’s to have a seat at the table where the decisions are being made.”
Pointed out DuVernay: “We aren’t sitting around talking about diversity. Just like we aren’t sitting around talking about being black or being women. We’re just being that.”
Winfrey, 62, and DuVernay, 43, also discussed the Black Lives Matter movement in the context of Queen Sugar, which follows African-American siblings who take over their family’s sugar plantation in present-day Louisiana.
“You see integration of Black Lives Matter from the beginning of [Queen Sugar] because it is literally black lives having meaning and mattering in the everyday,” said DuVernay.
She continued, “With the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of the focus is on the protest and dissent. I’m hoping to dismantle the public notion – for folks outside of the community – of what Black Lives Matter means. It’s really about saying that black lives matter, that humanity is the same when you go inside people’s homes.”
Said Winfrey, “Everybody gets caught up in the slogan and the hashtag and the protest,” added Winfrey. “What we’re trying to do is get you to feel it. You get to feel it when Ralph Angel [Kofi Siriboe] is putting his son to bed, laying with him and reading a story. Intimacy and connection between a father and son? We’ve just not seen it [with black characters on series TV].”
Drawing from her own experience on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey summed up, “I realized that the best way to show that black people are just like everybody else, or that gay people are just like everybody else, is not to do a show about gay people or black fathers raising their children [but] just to include them in a story about raising children. That’s how you normalize it and make it okay for everybody else.”
Queen Sugar premieres Sept. 6 and 7 on OWN.