“I want to do what I want to do for as long as I want to do it. I don’t have children. These films are my children. So this is what I will leave. I’m going to give them all the love and nurturing I can and send them out into the world to do what they’re gonna do…” — Ava DuVernay, Essence
Storytelling is personal for trailblazing director Ava DuVernay—whether she’s helming a documentary on mass incarceration, ensuring all Queen Sugar episodes are directed by women or assembling a multicultural cast for the highly anticipated film, A Wrinkle in Time. For her, the vision starts within. In Essence’s upcoming March issue cover story, Queen Ava, writer Kristal Brent Zook goes inside the world of the woman who’s deconstructing Hollywood. Essence’s March “Black Women in Hollywood” issue hits newsstands on Friday, 2/17.
AVA ON “HER CHILDREN”: “I want to do what I want to do for as long as I want to do it. I don’t have children. These films are my children. So this is what I will leave. I’m going to give them all the love and nurturing I can and send them out into the world to do what they’re gonna do…”
AVA ON HER APPROACH TO DIRECTING: “I don’t have to approach film like a man would, or like anybody else I read about, because it’s personal…so there’s no right way or wrong way. Directors talk about their process but that doesn’t have to be my process. My process is where the sets feel very familial, where I like to know my cast personally and where I value who people are more than their names…[It’s important to] imbue the sets and the experience with a sense of myself, a sense of warmth, a sense of family, not shying away from the things…that make me a Black woman, and just embracing those things and letting that come out in the material itself…”
OPRAH ON AVA AS A DIRECTOR: “I saw Ava on the set of Selma, out in 104 degrees, finding knee pads for some of the older women who needed them. She’s walking around handing out knee pads: ‘Ma’am, here. Put this on your knees. Ma’am, I think you should have some water.’ And she’s got a whole thing of waters. She, the director, comes from behind the camera and she’s passing out water…”
DAVID OYELOWO ON WORKING WITH AVA: “Who we are intersects with what we create, and Ava is someone I genuinely adore spending time with. I refer to her as my sister because I feel like I’ve known her far longer than I have. We barely need to say words for me to know what she needs out of me…” [Excerpt: ‘His goal, adds Oyelowo, is to continue to doing projects with her forever: “Until the day I die…”’]