We can all agree that Ava Duvernay. That’s it. That’s the sentiment. Whether she’s advocating for prison reform, being nominated for Academy Awards or making shows that speak to the very core of who we are; the thing we always know about anything connected to Ava is that one does not leave the experience unchanged. Duvernay’s work forces us all to look at the world around us though a different lens while digging deep within ourselves to see the ways in which we can greet the world better and with more compassion. Her latest work, Home Sweet Home, which will premiere on NBC on October 15th, explores the differences that actually make us closer than we may think through the lens of culture, family and love.
Duvernay, who is always using her influence in Hollywood to hold a mirror to the moral compass of our country, says this work is one that helps us fearlessly stand in who we are. “I mean, the bottom line is stereotypes are sometimes rooted in a truth that has been distorted. For example, I like watermelon,” she explained, “And so the idea that you have people in their own environments being authentically who they are, whatever it is, I don't think should be presented with fear. Who you are is who you are, and what people think of that is what we're trying to dismantle; right?”.
In the midst of the quarantine, the murders of Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor, powerful protests and problematic politics, I lamented the future. I craved connection and color and a celebration of our differences. That’s what HOME SWEET HOME is about. We debut next Friday on @NBC. xo pic.twitter.com/1FJwY0568m— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 8, 2021
The first episode kicks off with two very different families. The Wixx family, which is comprised of twin daughters Sanaiya and Soliel, their little brother Zyaire and their two moms Indya and Ania, trades lives with the Vasilou family. The Vasilou’s are a family of six; however, in a more traditional sense with a mom, dad, three boys and one girl, Katina, who narrates the family’s day in the show’s opening. On the surface the two families are polar opposites not only in race, The Wixx’s are Black and the Vasilou’s are of Greek descent, but also in cultural and religious beliefs. It is a fact that leads to a bit of tension both as the families navigate in the homes of the other and once they are reunited a week later.
“This isn't a kumbaya, all hold hands and love each other moment. This is an understand my life so you can -- so that we can have a better time living in this world together,” Ava explained, “We don't all have to be holding hands. We don't all have to be on the same page. But understand that I'm a human being, that he's a human being, she's a human being, and they are a human being, and at least have that basic human respect and dignity for one another. Can't we just do that?” The show, though not a completely original idea, seems to be coming in a time where our country has been more divided than ever on everything from women’s rights to vaccines; with people choosing sides and firmly shutting out anyone who dares to disagree.
It seems that even in a time where we proudly proclaim that ‘love wins,' hate is still a pretty viable opponent.
“If someone hates you, they will use the most pristine, pure, the martyr, the whatever to change and lie and distort,” Duvernay said in response to how this show challenges issues of difference head on, “That's what prejudice and racism is. It's not rooted in reality. It's rooted in a distortion that is created to uplift a certain kind of person and oppress another. And so in that process you give in to it. If you are saying, I'm going to bury my light and not show who I am because you're going to twist it, they are going to twist it anyway.”
Breaking from the mold of the shows that predate its conception, Home Sweet Home does not look to be a one size fits all happy ending. It is instead a call to arms to be better—by force or by choice—but that one cannot escape the call. “You know, the goal of the show isn't we are the world. The goal of the show is, huh, I didn't know that, that is interesting, so that maybe next time you see the woman in the hijab or next time you see the two black women, moms with their kids, you don't judge based on something you don't know, because you do kind of know, oh, I saw that. Those are diblings, you know. All those kids are from the same donor. That's interesting.”, Duvernay explained.
The series will be part of NBC’s fall lineup, airing at the prime time of 8pm, something that the Emmy-award winner says speaks to the show’s intention to be a show based on curiosity rather than conflict. “There is no one in either family who doesn't want to be there. There's no bratty teenage daughter who is like, I don't want to go. No. They all want to go.”, she said, “The offering was, would you like to have a social experience and a cultural exchange? And so as we cast people, we're looking for folks who are like, no, I want my kids to know what it's like outside our community, or kids saying, god, I really would love to go to another place.”
With the show refusing to go for what’s easy, the audience is invited into a breaking apart of outdated patterns, prejudgments and ways of being in community with those who are unlike us. There is nothing but room on Home Sweet Home. Room to explore, room to grow and room to welcome in a fresh perspective.