Now more than ever, “Queen Sugar” actress Bianca Lawson is thankful to work on a nurturing, female-led set helmed by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey.
“It’s a gift because now you’re hearing about all the stories,” said Lawson, referencing the barrage of sexual harassment allegations rocking the entertainment industry. “It’s like, wow, it’s this prevalent? It makes you even more grateful to be on a set where you feel so safe, so taken care of.”
Lawson has had a steady stream of television roles in shows like “The Vampire Dairies,” ″Teen Wolf” and “Pretty Little Liars,” but said her most recent work on the OWN family drama has felt like a breakthrough moment in her career.
“People are seeing me in a new light, in a different way,” she said during a recent interview.
Before tackling the role of Darla, a recovering drug addict, Lawson did her research. The actress watched documentaries, poured through moving audio from Narcotics Anonymous meetings, visited chat boards and talked to people in her life that have been affected by addiction.
“My whole life I’ve been waiting to play a part like this, quite honestly. … To work with these directors and to work with Ava, I could cry talking about her,’” said Lawson, tearing up. “This material and this environment, it’s really like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
It may seem like Lawson was destined for stardom. Her parents, Denise Gordy and Richard Lawson, are actors and her stepmother is Tina Knowles, making Beyoncé and Solange Knowles her step-sisters. But the 38-year-old said her parents initially resisted her Hollywood dreams.
“They were just like, you know, be a kid, go to school,” she recalled. “But I begged them. I wore them down!”
Lawson is overwhelmed by fan reactions and how Darla is resonating with audiences. Her work also moved Winfrey, a “Queen Sugar” executive producer, who pulled Lawson aside after her first day on set.
“She took my hand and she was like ‘amazing work.’ Can you imagine? … She was like, ‘I can tell you love Darla. I can tell because I can tell in your work,’” Lawson beamed. “End scene! What else do you need in life?”