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'Queen Sugar' Renewed As Ava DuVernay Inks Expanded Harpo Deal

OWN's hit drama secures a third season, while the co-creator partners with pal Oprah Winfrey for a first-look pact on TV and digital projects.

The always-in-demand Ava DuVernay is staying put at OWN, securing a third season for her critical darling Queen Sugar. The network announced a renewal for DuVernay's family drama on Wednesday morning, timed to a new deal with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films.

The expansion of their current partnership finds DuVernay in a first-look deal at Winfrey's production shingle for TV and digital media. Harpo Films, which co-produces Queen Sugar with Warner Horizon Scripted Television, is also on board DuVernay's recently announced Netflix limited series — Central Park Five.

“I’m so proud of Ava and her ability as a filmmaker to challenge the status quo and push for inclusiveness onscreen and behind the camera," said Winfrey, CEO of both OWN and Harpo Films. "I love, love, love the work we have been able to create so far. I am looking forward to developing many more meaningful projects together."

Queen Sugar's renewal was something of a given. It regularly ranks among the top five most-watched series on cable and continues to bring critical praise. But the timing of Harpo Film's deal with DuVernay represents a bit of future-proofing over at OWN. Tyler Perry, the creator of the network's top-rated dramas and comedies, recently announced a new overall deal at Viacom that will take him away from OWN in 2019. (His shows will stay on through 2020.) Just 24 hours before news of DuVernay's OWN deal, prolific producer Will Packer inked his own first-look TV deal at OWN.

Winfrey is co-creator of Queen Sugar, the Louisiana-set drama that heralded DuVernay's expansion into television. Since the series' successful launch in 2016, DuVernay has also released Oscar and Emmy-nominated documentary 13th, filmed Disney's upcoming tentpole A Wrinkle in Time and started work on Central Park Five. (She is set to write and direct the five-part series, which will tell the story of the five young black men wrongly convicted of murder in 1990.)

"There is fresh air and room to roam," DuVernay said in a statement. "There is an artist-driven atmosphere and an intention to share stories that nourish. There is a spirit of inclusivity and imagination moving at all times. This is the new era of OWN. I'm thrilled to continue to collaborate with Ms. Winfrey as we expand the scope of our storytelling. And I feel fortunate to be a small part of this network at such a wonderful time in its evolution."

As for the current season of Queen Sugar, one that sees DuVernay again enlisting an all-female directing staff with several TV newcomers, OWN also announced that actors Michael Michele, Roger Guenveur Smith and Beverly Todd will formally join the series in recurring roles this summer. (Directors Garrett Bradley, Liesl Tommy and Christina Voros are also confirmed to direct season two episodes.)

DuVernay is repped by CAA and attorney Nina Shaw of Del Shaw.

This article was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.

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Cardi B Lands Leading Role In Comedy ‘Assisted Living’

Cardi B is making her way back to the big screen. The Bronx native officially landed her first leading role in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Assisted Living.

According to Variety, Cardi will play a small time crook struggling to find a hiding place after her latest heist fails. Her character, “Amber,” disguises herself as an elderly woman and hides out at her grandmother's nursing home. The film is described as a “raucous comedy” similar to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act.

Paramount acquired the rights to Assisted Living in 2019. The film’s script was penned by This Is Us writer, Kay Oyegun.

Cardi, 28, made her film debut in the 2019 celeb-heavy stripper flick, Hustlers. The “WAP” rapper appears to have hinted at her Assisted Living role in a recent interview with Billboard where she dished on filming scenes for Fast & Furious 9.

“After ‘Hustlers’ I filmed a little bit for 'Fast & Furious' so I felt like ‘I’m ready for this,’ I knew what to expect,” she explained. “But the characters were a little different so I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m going to need more acting classes.’ I’m planning on doing a movie this year and I’m going to be the lead role so I’m like ‘I need to execute this flawlessly.’”

Besides film, Cardi was a judge on the Netflix completion show, Rhythm & Flow, and landed her own Facebook Watch series, Cardi Tries.

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Netflix Gives Sneak Peek Of Jay-Z Produced Western ‘The Harder They Fall’

Netflix gave a preview of the streaming giant's upcoming films on Tuesday (Jan. 12). Among them, the highly anticipated western, The Harder They Fall.

Produced by Jay Z and written and directed by musician Jeymes Samuel, the film stars Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz and Woody McClain.

The Harder They Fall follows the fictional character, Nat Love (Majors), as he seeks revenge on the man who murdered his parents. Besides signing on as a producer, Hov also created original music for the film.

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed filming, which began in March of last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Filming resumed in September but was paused again after one of the actors tested positive for coronavirus.

“What I love about movies is that they can make you feel every emotion,” King says in the Netflix teaser.

“And show you something you’ve never seen before,” adds Majors while clips from their film plays on the screen.

The Harder They Fall is one of 27 films headed to Netflix. See more in the video below.

2021 = a new movie EVERY WEEK on Netflix. Here's a sneak peek at 27 of the biggest, brightest, fastest, funniest, feel-good, feel-everything films and stars coming to Netflix this year pic.twitter.com/iCr1ZPrc7W

— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) January 12, 2021

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Issa Rae Announces ‘Insecure’ Will End After Season 5

Insecure will return this year for a fifth and final season, Issa Rae revealed on Wednesday (Jan. 13). In a statement to Deadline, Rae and executive producer Prentice Penny showed gratitude to HBO and fans of the show.

“Prentice and I are so grateful that HBO believed in our show from the beginning and kept the faith in us to see our vision through the end,” said Rae.“We always planned to tell this story through five seasons, but we couldn’t have made it this far without the tremendous support of our audience. I feel blessed beyond measure to bring our characters’ stories to an end, on-screen at least.”

HBO’s Programming EVP Amy Gravitt, noted that Rae has “turned insecurity into an iconic form of comedy.”

Based off the 36-year-old’s popular Awkward Black Girl YouTube series, lnsecure was created by Rae and Larry Wilmore. The series premiered on HBO in 2016.

Season five will reportedly begin filming later this month with Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Natasha Rothwell and Amanda Seales all expected to return. The previous season ended with Rae’s character at yet another crossroads with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Lawrence (played by Ellis).

Season five of Insecure debuts later this year.

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