Dawn-Lyen Gardner who stars on OWN’s hit show Queen Sugar, recently sat down with The Hedonist regarding her role on the show, storytelling, and equality in Hollywood.
“I’ve never been clearer about the transformative power of storytelling, and at this point, acting isn’t just something that I love to do, it feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel really, really blessed to feel that,” said Gardner who portrays the character of Charley Bordelon on Queen Sugar.
Gardner began acting at the age of nine-years-old when she first started doing commercials and television.
“In my teen years, I found myself really questioning why I was doing it. Like, what was it all for? I think I was questioning a lot in the world, searching for meaning, and that included this thing that I loved doing.,” Gardner said.
“That questioning took me to an arts high school and eventually landed me at Juilliard, and that’s where I feel I really chose to pursue a career as an actor.”
Gardner stated during the interview that the entertainment industry is expanding to include more diverse and inclusive content because people are “hungry” for it.
“I think audiences are hungry for stories that reflect the complexity of their world and those in it. It seems like good business sense to create content to meet that demand — I think we saw that in the success of films like Moonlight and Black Panther, she said.
“On another level though, I think two important things are happening right now: one, historically marginalized artists are staking their claims in the landscape in an undeniable way – and they are empowering others to do so. Which is phenomenal! And two: I think as a society, we are all craving spaces to make sense of this time, to ask questions about who we are becoming right now. It feels urgent.”
The 37-year-old actress also spoke to how Queen Sugar represents many aspects of race, culture, justice and African-American issues in a way that hasn’t been highlighted in mainstream media.
“The show really is an invitation. It invites audiences to sit down and get to know these characters, to care about them, to see themselves or some part of their lives reflected back in this culturally rooted story of a Black family in rural America,” Gardner explained.
“That is revolutionary, as it asks the audience to expand the image of whom we identify as heroic. And it does this while taking on conversations around power, wealth, race, land, gender, queer identity, mass incarceration, illness, addiction, sexual assault, domestic violence — it’s calling for the audience to examine their relationships with the complexity of our world. And again, I believe that’s exactly what audiences are hungry for.”
Gardner continued on to also mention how Queen Sugar has played a huge role in intentionally employing women.
“In terms of representation, women have been centered in front of and behind the camera unprecedented ways — and in Charley, the show has produced a complicated, brilliant, flawed and unapologetically masterful woman whose presence and power is self-defined. Those are all glorious achievements, and I am proud to be of service to them,” she said.