Ava DuVernay Defends 'Queen Sugar' Character's Chronic Illness

While oftentimes chronic illnesses in movies and TV conclude with a dramatic healing or death, Ava DuVernay plans to offer a more realistic portrayal in her show “Queen Sugar.” The director recently defended a character’s chronic illness storyline, revealing how important it is to have honest representations of people with chronic illness onscreen.

The drama series focuses on a family who has inherited a sugarcane farm. At the end of season two, family matriarch Aunt Violet (Tina Lifford) tells her boyfriend Hollywood (Omar Dorsey) she has lupus. She explains it isn’t a “death sentence” and can be managed. She’s consistently portrayed as a strong woman who wants to live her life as best she can, while taking care of her health and standing up for what she needs. But in Wednesday night’s episode, her symptoms appeared to be flaring at a party, and some fans took to social media to express their fears for Aunt Violet and hope she would be “healed.”

DuVernay responded to the tweet above, explaining that having an illness doesn’t mean you’re not whole. “Respectfully, we can have physical illness and still be whole. That’s what this storyline explores among other things. Many of us live with chronic illness and still we thrive and live and love wholeheartedly.”

Many people with chronic illnesses thanked DuVernay for her response and said Aunt Violet reflected their own experience with illness.

Other recent TV shows that have featured chronic illnesses include “black-ish” (Anthony Anderson’s character was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes) and “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” Lady Gaga’s Netflix documentary that featured her battle with fibromyalgia.

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