Queen Sugar Preview: Dondre Whitfield on an “Eye-Opening” Season 2 Finale
WARNING: Spoilers for Queen Sugar Season 2 Finale
The second season of OWN’s Queen Sugar is sadly coming to an end tonight.
Charley’s on a mission to save the mill. At the end of last week’s episode, she fearlessly raced off to face her rivals in her quest to stop the Landry/Boudreaux clan.
Ralph Angel’s devastated over Blue potentially not being his biological son. The way he’s acting, it’s a done deal. But, honestly, he’s Blue’s father in every way even if they don’t turn out to be a blood match.
Aunt Vi’s struggling to cope with her illness and the changes that will come along with it. Nova continues to shake things up with her controversial opinions about the causes she chooses to take on. Plus, she’s doing her part to try and keep her family together in the wake of all this drama. Micah’s borrowing a page from Nova’s book as he turned activist in order to right an injustice at his high school. Sure he was suspended for his efforts but he did his part to fight the good fight.
This season, Charley and Remy continued to be an integral dynamic on the Queen Sugar landscape. The two grew closer as they worked to make the Queen Sugar Mill a success, Charley’s mother came to town, and Remy admitted he wants to have kids someday.
To help prepare everyone for the finale, we chatted with the actor who plays Remy Newell, the Bordelons strongest ally and Charley’s wonderfully supportive love interest.
DondrÃ© Whitfield talked about the Queen Sugar experience; he previewed the “eye-opening” extended finale; told us what it was it like to be directed by his wife, actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, and he revealed the very personal reason why he relates so very much to Ralph Angel’s journey.
TV Goodness: It has to feel good to know that you’re working on a quality show that has passionate viewers, a network and studio that really supports the show, and also going into the finale, you know that you’ll be back for another season.
DondrÃ© Whitfield: What could be better than, as an actor, knowing that you have a job and that your job is just incredible and impactful. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
TV Goodness: What have you enjoyed most about playing Remy in season two?
Whitfield: Everything that I enjoyed in season one, which was just being surrounded by a great group of actors and collaborators. Our producers, our directors, an all-female team, including the likes of my wife. All of those things make for a really phenomenal experience. Being 35 years in this industry and not having an experience like this is just incredible. And our cast, the reason why our show pops off the screen the way it does is because we really love each other like brothers and sisters. We check in with each other in text threads like an extended family. It’s pretty phenomenal.
TV Goodness: What was it like in season one to be directed by your wife?
Whitfield: It was like home. I had some people…Our ADs [assistant directors] were, as she was coming onto the set, they were like, ‘Wow. What’s it gonna be like with your wife directing you?’ I’m like, ‘Man we’ve been together for 20 years. It’s gonna be like home.’ In fact, I joke all the time about how my wife owes her directorial career to me because she’s practiced for 20 years on me how to direct.
It was pretty awesome. My wife is extremely talented. She’s quite visual. She’s decisive. She knows what she like, what she doesn’t like. And she has the unique ability to get you to understand that whatever choice that you think that you wanted to make, if she’s trying to get you to do something outside of what you were thinking, she has the ability to convince you that what she was thinking is probably gonna be the better way to do it. And that takes some doing because, as an actor, you have to trust the vision of your director because you don’t have the benefit of seeing what they see.
I’ve often said to people that, you know, being a director is kind of like guiding someone who is blind, and having them trust you, that you’re not gonna walk them into a brick wall. That’s what a relationship between a director and an actor is like when it’s most symbiotic.
TV Goodness: What can you tease big picture wise for the season two finale?Â
Whitfield: I think it’s going to be quite eye opening for a lot of people who may have been expecting one thing and then seeing something completely different. I think it’s going to be defining, in terms of how they see Charley, how they see Remy. It’s going to create lots of anticipation because you can obviously see that there’s room for certain things to happen that aren’t happening currently, but you see the room for that absolutely coming into play for season three. And I think, like anything else, just like going to a restaurant that has great food, a part of the experience of the food is the anticipation of it. I think that there’s going to be great anticipation for season three, based on what’s happening in the finale of season two.
TV Goodness: The business storyline with the Bordelons going up against the Landry/Boudreauxs is pretty intense and potentially volatile. What can you tease about this particular storyline in the finale?
Whitfield: Again, more of the anticipation of what kind of strangle hold Charley is going…You know in the end that Charley’s gonna win. Because she’s the heroine and heroines win. Now, at what expense? It’s always about not so much that if the character wins, but when and how.
TV Goodness: And the collateral damage.
Whitfield: What the collateral damage, the fallout is going to be over the win. Charley has already proven that she is willing to do anything in order to win, as a matter of fact. In one of the episodes, Remy says to her, ‘You’re just capable of anything.’ It was sort of a backhanded compliment. What he was basically saying was, ‘You want to win too badly, and your need to win is ultimately going to get us in trouble. Your need to win is gonna get us in trouble.’
TV Goodness: At first I thought Remy wanting kids was gonna be a huge obstacle for them, but now I’m not so sure. That maybe it’s her need to win and go up against the Landrys that might be more of an obstacle. What are your thoughts on that?
Whitfield: What we can’t forget is that [Charley] understands that, to a very large extent, that the Landrys/Boudreauxs are sort of responsible for Ernest’s untimely death.
The stress of not being able to be in business in a substantive way was, in part, due to their practices. And because she has the kind of power that she does have, I think that some of the motivation is to get that behind her father’s death. Her motivation behind wanting to win and what it all costs is coming from a very human place, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how she navigates all of that because that does that some doing.
TV Goodness: What storyline other than your own are you completely mesmerized by and why?
Whitfield: I think that it would probably be have to be the storyline of Ralph Angel. Early on in season one, I did a little something with my daughter, who’s 13 now, so she was 12 last year. What we would do is on the way to school, she would interview me after the previous night’s episode had aired because people looked to hear from me about what my thoughts were and all of that. We’d call them our daddy daughter interviews.
And my daughter would interview me about the show. She asked me something that no other reporter had ever asked me. Her question was, ‘If you could play any character besides Remy, who would that be?’ And I said, ‘Wow.’ I said, ‘Playing a woman would be awkward.’ She said, ‘Yes, that would be awkward,’ so we moved away from that. Then I said, ‘Then it would have to be Ralph Angel because Ralph Angel reminds me of my father.’
If you remember in the opening episode, the pilot episode, where he leaves Blue in the-
TV Goodness: ..the park?
Whitfield: The park to basically fend for himself as he goes to rob the convenience store. That was very much the experience that I had growing up with my own father, because my father was in jail my entire life.
While my dad was out committing crimes, doing the best that he could for himself, I was father-less and waiting for my father to show up. And then having him show up the best way he could. That scene was so riveting to me because I think it encapsulated my relationship with my father for the better part of the first 20 years of my life.
TV Goodness: And to see what’s going on with Ralph Angel now, it’s kind of devastating.
Whitfield: Yeah. It’s one of the things that I try to have people, as a transformative coach and a healer, which I am. Most people don’t know about that because they know about my work as an actor. But what I try to teach people is that an assailant is first a victim. An assailant is first a victim. So when someone commits an egregious act towards someone we only see them as the assailant. And the empathetic standpoint that we need to have has to include the fact that we, at some point, must see them as the victims that they once were during their transformative years, during their developmental years. Something devastating must have happened to that person when they were a child that made way for that adult to show up the way they’re showing up.
And the way that got me close to my father was understanding that he was doing what he knew how to do based on what he was taught how to do. And he couldn’t show up to be a father to me because no one had ever fathered him.
I think that that’s one of the things that I love about our show, is that if you look very closely to those things, and you watch these storylines, you’ll see yourself, you’ll see your family, you’ll see your friends, you’ll see society. It’s sort of a peek into all of our lives in a very specific way when you look closely enough at it. And I think that understanding it from most points of view are truly the things that allow us to have real transformative substantive moments.
TV Goodness: Has this Queen Sugar experience been a challenging experience for you, satisfying? What’s it been like for you?
Whitfield: All of those things. It’s been challenging. It’s been satisfying. It’s been renewing. It’s been transformative. It’s been all of those things. I think every great experience that you ever have in life is all of those things. Like my own life with my wife or with my children. I love my children to death, but parenting is challenging. Coaching them and building them. I had a parent teacher conference this morning with my son’s teacher. He’s eight years old. And hearing all of the comments that she made about him and about his character and about what kind of student he was and about how he shows up for his classroom, it just brought back all of the things about my own life that were just so awesome. And to hear that my son was having a pretty similar experience, in terms of what he brings to a space when he comes in was great. But helping him become the person that he is, a great challenge. Has it been rewarding? Of course. Has it been transformative? Of course.
So all of those things, I would be a little disappointed if it didn’t come with all of that.
The Queen Sugar season two finale airs tomorrow night at 9/8c on OWN. Immediately following the 90-minute episode is a Queen Sugar Finale after-show special, hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
â€” Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) November 14, 2017
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