If you haven’t seen QUEEN SUGAR yet, you may want to make OWN’s critically acclaimed sudser your next binge watch. The series, which follows the trials and tribulations of three Louisiana siblings who come together to save their family’s ailing sugar cane farm, recently kicked off its second season to record-high ratings. Timon Durrett plays Davis West, a philandering pro basketball star who ruined his marriage and is trying to salvage a relationship with his teenage son. Durrett says he loves that his alter ego is so flawed. “I welcome a conflict on and off camera,” he chuckles. “On camera, I like playing characters who tug at the emotions of the people who are watching it. Off camera, I sometimes get people who can’t separate the actor from the character and they’ll say, ‘Ooh, I couldn’t stand you in that scene! How could you do that?’ That lets me know I’ve done my job. I love playing characters that leave people with a memory of it, whether it be happiness or sorrow, something that really brings them into the world of the character — that’s why I love Davis.”
Durrett is living his dream now, but after he kicked off his showbiz career in the 1999 film Deep Passion, there were long stretches where roles were scarce, and he was ready to quit acting just when QUEEN SUGAR came along. “It wasn’t by choice,” Durrett recalls. “Life sometimes deals you a hand that’s not the best and you’ve got to make do with what you have. We have peaks and valleys in life, and that valley was deep. It got to the point where I said, ‘Okay, it’s time for a change.’ I was actually filling out a job application online to supplement things, and my information would not go through. I kept getting those little red asterisks that indicate, ‘These are mandatory fields,’ but they were all filled out with all the right information and all spelled correctly [laughs]. I tried sending it five times, man, and it wouldn’t go through. I was so frustrated, I just pushed my laptop back, closed it down, and closed my eyes, clenched my fist and said, ‘God, I’m so tired.’ Right then, my phone finished updating, I looked and saw that I had a one-minute, 47-second voicemail from my agent — and I was in the room with [QS Creator/Director/Executive Producer] Ava DuVernay the next day.”
Durrett treasures his good fortune in landing QUEEN SUGAR, and still pinches himself that he’s working alongside Oprah Winfrey, who serves as executive producer. “The first time I met her, I was at the table read last year, before we started filming,” he shares. “She came into the room and I just happened to be standing by the door getting food, and she came in with those hand hugs — you know, how she grabs your palms and she shakes it and then she brings you in — and she looked at me like she was a family member I hadn’t seen in a long time. She’s just comforting. She has own energy, her own vibe. She knows how to put you at ease. It’s a queen-like quality, but there’s no pressure. There’s no need to be fearful. I can’t say enough great things about her.”
With Winfrey and DuVernay at the helm, QUEEN SUGAR strives to not only produce quality drama, but also to employ female artists in a business long dominated by men. In fact, QUEEN SUGAR has been lauded for having an all-female directing team. “It’s about time!” the actor stresses. “It brings about a balance that I think is long overdue. There are so many women who have been underpaid, overlooked and just misunderstood and not being given a chance to show what they can do. What I love is that a lot of these women on our team are now getting the opportunity to show what they’ve got. I’m a guy. I play rough. I do guy stuff, and to have that femininity to balance out my perspective and my understanding in our scene work is priceless. That’s why we’re back for a second season.”
As for what’s ahead on QUEEN SUGAR in season 2, Durrett teases, “It’s like having some food,” he smiles. “Everything tastes good, and then you add some sides, which are just as delicious, but that doesn’t take away from what’s already on the plate. It just adds more to it. They’re taking this buffet of all of this robust artistry and this cinematic deliciousness and they’re mixing it up and playing with all the colors and flavors. People are going to get a lot more in season 2. The characters will be fleshed out more. We’ll see more layers to everybody, including New Orleans, which is also a character in the series. The good just keeps coming. I can’t wait for people to see.”
The one thing Durrett sorely misses this season, however, is the presence of Greg Vaughan (Calvin; Eric, DAYS), who won’t be back until later in the season. “That’s my dude!” he declares of Vaughan. “I call him G-Money and he calls me Big Sweet because when we go out for drinks or something, I like the sweeter things. Greg’s my guy, man. I am looking forward to seeing him again real soon.”
Now that, thanks to QUEEN SUGAR, Durrett is firmly rooted in the acting profession, he’s hoping to add a hyphenate to his occupation in the coming years. “English composition and writing classes were always intriguing to me,” he notes. “My desire for acting came long after my affinity for words and definitions. I love storytelling and I’m actually working on a science fiction novel. I’m a little more than halfway done with it. I originally wrote it as a screenplay and a friend of mine in the industry read it and she said, ‘I think you should write this as a book.’ And I did, and it’s much better than the screenplay. So where do I want to be in 10 years? I’d love to write, direct, produce and star in a science fiction action film based on a novel that I wrote. Yeah, I’m a bit of a nerd [laughs]!”
Did You Know?
•He played basketball in college: “I just walked onto the team. I was the fastest. I could jump the highest. I had a high GPA and I was the team manager the first year, and the coach said, ‘Hey….’ He put me on scholarship and I was playing the year after that.”
•Durrett can next be seen in the upcoming independent films Professor Mack and Boxing Day.
In 2004, Durrett played an orderly named Jim Edwards on Y&R, but watching himself on TV didn’t quite go as he’d planned. “Doing that show was great. That was my first time working on a soap opera, and it was done very differently than anything else I had ever acted in before. I got to play an orderly and I had to pretend like I was injected with this sedative [when Jim was overpowered by a hospitalized Kevin in order to escape]. I was so excited to see it. I just happened to be back home visiting my family when it aired and I was at my older brother’s house. The show came on. We were watching it live and then “[sings] Da-da-da-da! Breaking news!” and they announced that [former President] Ronald Reagan had died — so I never got to see it!”
Just The Facts
Birthday: July 12.
Hails From: Chicago, IL
Alma Mater: Alcorn State in Mississippi, where he graduated with honors with a B.A. in communications.
Status: “I am single.”
Eight Is Enough: “I have five brothers and two sisters. I’m No. 6 out of 8.”
Nickname: “I’m a little over 6 ft.-5, so people call me ‘Tree.’ ”
Hit The Boards: “I’d like to do more theater. I only did one play [Tyler Perry’s The Marriage Counselor in 2009] but theater just reignites your love for the arts. You get that energy and gratification from the audience right away. It’s addictive.”
Life Motto: “Chill, Be Real, Repeat.”