NBC is currently developing the first network drama to center on a Native American family. According to Deadline, Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar, Selma) and Indigenous film trailblazer Bird Runningwater have a pilot commitment for Sovereign. Based on a story from DuVernay, Sovereign will follow an Indigenous family navigates life, love, and pursuit of self-determination against all odds. DuVernay’s ARRAY productions will produce along with Warner Bros. Television.
The series will be executive produced by DuVernay and writers Sydney Freeland (Grey’s Anatomy, P-Valley) and Shaz Bennett (The Glades, Bosch), via Deadline. Runningwater will co-produce with ARRAY’s Sarah Bremner (Those People, Deathnote) and Paul Garnes (Middle of Nowhere, August 28th).
Based in Los Angeles, Runningwater has been a pioneer in supporting Indigenous filmmakers around the world. According to Deadline, the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations member has worked to foster a community of over 140 Indigenous filmmakers since 1996.
Freeland, who is a member of the Navajo Nation, is an Emmy-nominated writer and director, according to Deadline. In addition to directing on series such as Grey’s Anatomy, Nancy Drew, and The Walking Dead, the Gallup, New Mexico native has made her mark as a film director with 2014’s Drunktown’s Finest. The feature debut premiered at Sundance and coveted Freeland a Jury Prize at L.A. Outfest. She received an Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series Emmy nomination for the 2016 digital series, Her Story.
Deadline reports Bennett entered episodic TV directing on DuVernay’s OWN series Queen Sugar. Prior to this, she had written for A&E’s The Glades and most recently Lifetime drama UnREAL and Amazon Prime’s Bosch. Bennett’s film Alaska Is a Drag won several awards across the film festival circuit. Written and directed by Bennett, she received best feature film and jury directing praise at Leeds, Urbanworld, and the Smithsonian African American Film Festival.
According to Deadline, DuVernay’s overall deal with Warner Bros. TV has her working on several projects. For HBO Max, she is developing the docuseries One Perfect Shot; and a second NBC series, Home Sweet Home will be a reality show experiment. At OWN she continues executive producing Cherish the Day and the fifth season of Queen Sugar. The filmmaker is also working with Netflix on a limited series focused on former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick entitled Colin in Black and White.