The Cast of HBO's 'Kings of Napa' Talks Black Excellence and Learning The Ropes Of Winemaking Ahead Of Tonight's Premiere
Last night I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a pre-screening Q&A event for OWN's new upcoming show, Kings of Napa, about a family of Black vineyard owners who have to scramble to reorganize after the death of their patriarch reveals some life-changing secrets. After we watched the show, the cast sat down for an interview with Terrence J to talk about all the heart and soul - and grapes - they put into the making of this new series.
"Janine takes this very seriously, and had us all go to wine school" explained Ashlee Brian, who plays laid-back cousin Christian King on the show. "They taught us everything from the process - starting from the soil, to production, to drinking and enojying the glass - as simple as it is to have a glass of wine, to actually drink it and enjoy it the proper way, aerate the wines, and to smell them - you know, all of these things really helped inform our characters and the world that we step into right out the gate."
Show creator Janine Sherman Barrois - producer for ER, Criminal Minds, and Claws, among others - has good reason to get so into the nitty gritty details of career specifics for Kings of Napa - she actually could. She talked to J and the rest of us about how exciting it was to be able to make a Black show that didn't need to focus so much on specifically Black struggles.
"We often show black women in trauma. There's so much trauma. And this is now Black people...you know, their humanity. It's them living, breathing, being - being functional adults, and I think that's very important."
Ebonee Noel, who plays August King, definitely agreed with the sentiment.
"I've been waiting my whole career to play a character like this. She has so many elements that, as a performer, you just dream to bring to the screen. She's a strong Black woman who is a leader in her family and in the company that she works within...there's so much love, and she's focused on pulling together the family.
"[August] is like 'listen: throw me the ball, and I will get us to the endzone...put me in.' And she's trusted with that responsibility." Noel continued. "Yes, there are people who doubt her, there are characters who maybe challenge her, but it's not like, 'oh you're too young,' or 'can a black woman really do this, can you handle this?' It's not striving to prove my worth, it's just that my family and I disagree on these business decisions. To get to play a character where the conflict is not focused around what people think are the deficiencies of a Black woman in this space is a dream come true."
Noel, as well as Brian, Barrois, and the rest of the cast, are very excited to finally get to present their hard work to the world with this show about Black Excellence.
"Everyone should tune into Kings of Napa because it's a celebration of the multifaceted nature of Blackness. We are a cast that represents the Black community across size, color, expression, generation - and we're all killing it in our own way. I think we'll make you proud, and I think we'll take you on a ride that you'll be hooked from the start and not be able to let go of. We put so much love and care into this."
Kings of Napa premieres tonight at 8/7c on OWN - and with, like, ten unexpected twists in the first episode alone, it's definitely worth the watch.