Native American Family Drama ‘Sovereign’ From Ava DuVernay in the Works at NBC

DuVernay will executive produce alongside Bird Runningwater of Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations

ava duvernay bird runningwater
Photo credit: ARRAY/Kaz Kipp

Ava DuVernay is producing the first-ever Native American family drama developed for network television. Titled “Sovereign,” the potential series has received a put pilot commitment, the broadcaster said Friday.

The “When They See Us” creator will executive produce the project, with Bird Runningwater, who belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, acting as co-executive producer. The pilot for the family drama was written by Sydney Freeland (“Drunktown’s Finest”), a member of the Navajo Nation, and Shaz Bennett (“Bosch”) from a story by DuVernay.

Per NBC, “The groundbreaking project chronicles the lives, loves and loyalties of a sprawling, contemporary Indigenous family struggling to control the future of their tribe against outside forces and themselves.”

DuVernay’s ARRAY Filmworks will produce “Sovereign” in association with Warner Bros. Television, where the filmmaker has an overall deal. Freeland and Bennett are executive producers with DuVernay, alongside ARRAY’s Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes who will co-executive produce with Runningwater.

Under her Warner Bros. Television Group pact, DuVernay is currently executive producing her OWN drama series “Queen Sugar” and “Cherish the Day,” as well as the upcoming NBC family social experiment “Home Sweet Home” and the HBO Max docuseries “One Perfect Shot.” Outside of her deal with Warner Bros., DuVernay is executive producing the upcoming Netflix limited series “Colin in Black & White,” about the life of Colin Kaepernick.

An Emmy Award winner and Oscar nominee, DuVernay is best known for her Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” as well as her Oscar-winning feature “Selma,” Oscar-nominated/Emmy-winning documentary “13th,” and films “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “I Will Follow.”

Per NBC, “Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 1996, he has guided and mentored the global Indigenous film community by nurturing a new generation of filmmakers. Based in Los Angeles, California, Runningwater has supported more than 140 different Indigenous filmmakers through his work.”


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