Rutina Wesley’s first acting job came on a Broadway workshop for “The Color Purple” in 2006. A little more than a decade later, she landed a lead role on “Queen Sugar” on OWN, the television network started by Oprah Winfrey, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film and produced the Broadway musical.
“If you had told me then, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You’re going to meet her later,’ I wouldn’t have believed you,” Wesley said during a video interview at The Times recently.
Wesley remembered her younger self as “really green and super-nervous,” a contrast to where she is now, ready to take on a challenging part like Nova, the complicated “beautiful mess” of a woman on “Queen Sugar,” and deliver the goods.
Which doesn’t mean she isn’t to this day a little intimidated by Winfrey.
“I’m still in shock, like, ‘Really? I’ve met her and I’m working with her?’” Wesley said, adding that she actually hid for a minute before first encountering Winfrey.
“When I came out, she opened her arms and just gave me this big hug, and it was genuine,” Wesley said. “I felt her whole self of love and ‘I see you.’ I will never, ever forget that day.”
Wesley also answered many questions — including one from Winfrey (The secret to great arms? Pilates) and “Queen Sugar” creator Ava DuVernay chimed in, asking Wesley to tell the story of meeting series costar Dawn-Lyen Gardner in the hallway before their audition.
The actress filled us in on what to expect for the show’s second season, which will premiere over two nights, June 20-21. Yes, we will see Nova struggling with her relationship with Calvin, maybe figuring it out, maybe not. (“I’m not going to give you too much,” she teased.) And, yes, the entire season, all 16 episodes, will, like the first, be directed entirely by women.
“It’s an incredible journey,” Wesley said. “They’re each different … they each bring something of themselves to it.”
You can watch the full interview here: