[EXCLUSIVE]: Timon Kyle Durrett Talks New Show ‘Queen Sugar’ Created by Oprah Winfrey and Ava Duvernay

By: Daniela Posso

Timon Kyle Durrett is an actor from the Southside of Chicago who will play the role of ‘Davis West’ in OWN‘s new series ‘Queen Sugar’, based off of the same-titled novel by Natalie Baszile.

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‘The contemporary drama Queen Sugar, set in the fictional town of Saint Josephine, Louisiana, 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.’ QueenSugarOwn.tv

That ‘professional basketball star’ just so happens to be Timon’s character Davis, who is not too far-fetched from Timon who played basketball during his college years. This small common factor would make the role of Davis quite relatable for Timon.

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Davis West is a conflicted man who is navigating through the expectations and temptations that come with being a superstar athlete, a champion, an icon of a sport in a sense. Davis is a good man. He’s a good guy. However, there are some controversies that he has to deal with that I can relate to,” says Durrett, as he tells Kontrol a little bit about Davis West.

Durrett shares with Kontrol his experience with the audition process for Queen Sugar and how he prepared.

Initially, I had submitted a tape and Ava [Duvernay] saw my tape. She was looking for a tall man to play the role of Davis West and I was called in, flown out from Atlanta, Georgia where I was living at the time to go and test read in Los Angeles. We met and I test read, and it went really well.

Durrett tells us that the tape-read went so well, that he was confident that he had booked the role because of the energy that he felt in the room. He also notes that Ava Duvernay, whom he auditioned in front of, has “something about her” where he didn’t feel “nervous or apprehensive” around her.

 

[The audition process] was very easy going. It was a lot of fun and it just felt right.

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Timon was right. He booked the role! – And he remembers every second of that moment that he found it out. Though Timon tells Kontrol he usually doesn’t pick up phone calls from numbers he doesn’t know, he happened to pick this one up.

It was the evening of January 20th when my phone rang and Ava Duvernay called me personally. I was [waiting] for phone calls outside of [Queen Sugar] and when I picked up the phone and when she said ‘hi this is Ava, do you have a minute?’ everything else just seemed to stop. You ever watched a movie where only one person is moving and everything else is still? – That’s how I felt,” says Timon, describing the moment he found out he was booked for the show.

 

Timon continues, “When she told me I had the part I can not put into words how I felt. It was such an [overwhelming feeling] of wonderful emotions; anything negative or bad was wiped away. I felt like I could jump off the planet. It was great.

Timon admits to Kontrol that since Davis is relatable to him in real life, his preparation process was more so just recollecting his own experiences.

I took bits and pieces from my life and applied it to Davis West. Of course I’ve never been a superstar famous professional basketball player; I played ball in college. However, there are expectations and temptations that come along with being an athlete, and so with those different aspects of my life and the different bits of turmoil with my character and other characters, I can draw from my own experiences and insert them into the life of my character. The preparation was basically recollection of things that I’ve experienced in my life as a former athlete and as a human being.”

Timon may have been able to relate to his character, but that doesn’t mean he took this role lightly. In fact, it made him dig even deeper into Davis West. Timon tells us what his biggest challenge was with the role of Davis West, which he calls his favorite one thus far in his career as an actor.

With the role came an idea of accountability for myself to transcend the actor into the real world of Davis West, because Davis West is actually a real person in the sense that the things that Davis goes through have happened, they can happen. It’s a very real life scenario when it comes to Davis West and all of the things that he is dealing with. The challenge was making it as real as possible and I wanted to face that challenge head on to make Davis as relatable and real as possible.”

Working with Oprah Winfrey and Ava Duvernay

Of course, we had to ask Timon about his experience working with powerhouses Oprah Winfrey and Ava Duvernay.

[They have] an inviting feeling that makes you want to do your best and I like that about them.”

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Being your best self,” responds Timon when asked what he has learned from watching and working with Oprah, “I watch Ms. Winfrey, how she moves, how she speaks to people, the way she conducts business, and there’s a very regal quality to her. She is very respectful which makes her very respectable. She’s very in tune with the energy of the room and she knows how to take that and make everyone comfortable.

Durrett tells Kontrol Oprah is ‘wonderful and welcoming’ and says, “It’s who she is inside that makes Oprah the Oprah that the world knows. In my opinion, she’s a queen in her own light because that’s how she carries herself and it makes you want to be around her. She has this aura that is inviting.

“There was so much fun and joy in this thing. Even the times that I was just flat out exhausted I loved it.”

Ava Duvernay announced that she hired an all-female directorial team for ‘Queen Sugar’. Timon not only backs Ava up by saying it was the right move, but also commends her for doing it, telling Kontrol that he applauded her for it.

I think it was great. It was groundbreaking and very innovative and gutsy and in my opinion I believe it was a great move. There’s not enough of that in the entertainment world where mostly women are at the helm, and it gave me a comfort because it brought about that balance.

Timon says this dynamic balance allowed him to see certain things from a woman’s perspective, which helped him better relate to his character. He says choosing an all-female directorial team played a large part in helping ‘Queen Sugar’ be what it is.

Why you should tune in 

Absolutely,” was Timon’s response when asked if ‘Queen Sugar’ was relatable, “it’s relatable on all levels.

I believe that Queen Sugar’s audience will walk away with life lessons, learned or explained or understood, the audience will be able to say’ Yup, I get it. I’ve been there; I understand that, I can relate I know how you feel – on both ends. It’s very real to life, its very relatable.

When I was reading the material I would say ‘they are writing the hell out of this show’ because there’s nothing so far-fetched that people would say ‘that couldn’t happen’. I think viewers can walk away with something – From young to older, male and female, richer to poor, so many people from so many walks of life can relate to this work.”

After watching the trailer, you can see that there is a sort of racial tension that plays a part in some of the plot. When asked how Timon felt about this part of the show in correlation to all of the recent tragedies that have occurred as of late, he describes it as “perfect timing.”

That’s one of the things that I can appreciate about this show, is the artistic way of bringing awareness to a very real situation for people in this country and around the world.

If you are still hesitant about giving the new series a chance, maybe this fun fact will change your mind – ‘Queen Sugar’ was actually picked up for a second season before it has even premiered on television!

I agree with the decision,” Timon says humorously, “just because when I got a chance to see the first two episodes right then and there I said ‘this is good… it’s very good.’

This kind of thing doesn’t occur often, so we asked Timon why he thinks ‘Queen Sugar’ was capable of achieving it and he told us, “I believe it’s because so many talented and passionate people are all working together as a team from hair and make up, to lighting, to camera, the DP’s and cinematographers and wardrobe and actors, everyone was very into what they did, as well as myself. [It was a] collaboration of so many people who love what they do coming together and making sure that we have something that can be enjoyable and entertaining and informative for those who watch it.”

Make sure you tune into the 2-night series premiere of ‘Queen Sugar’ on Sep. 6th and 7th at 10/9C on OWN!

 Check out the extended trailer below!

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