I'm a writer. It's what God called me to be. But if there are two things that I had a "quiet passion" for while I was in college, it was video directing and acting. I think that's why visuals can hold my attention so intensely to this day and, whenever an actor truly strikes me, I instantly become a fan. So is the case when it comes to Bianca Lawson. Although she's been in the game for 23 years now, I've gotta be honest—when it comes to her craft, I only really know her as Darla (interestingly enough, Darla doesn't appear to have a last name; I checked the cast list). And boy, is Bianca, as Darla, something. Truly something.
As I was checking her out on AOL's Build series from earlier this summer, something that the host Brittany Jones-Cooper said about Queen Sugar really resonated; that it is constantly written with so much intention. Indeed. Not just intention, but realism. Even the sugar farm that the entire show is built around is based in modern-day fact, not fiction. If you don't believe me, check out recently published pieces like "How Did African-American Farmers Lose 90 Percent of Their Land?", "The Great Land Robbery", "So Much of Our National History Is Lost to Guilty Amnesia" and "How Southern Black Farmers Were Forced from Their Land, and Their Heritage".
Not only that, but when it comes to this season's storylines, as an author who penned an autobiography that had a lot of my family (and church members) shook, I could relate to some of what Nova has been going through (although I shared galleys ahead of time; Nova showed out, even to me). As someone who has ran into my molester more times than I would ever like to, I can also empathize with Aunt Vi's paralyzing anger and fear at the return of her abusive ex-husband (you played that, David Alan Grier). But perhaps, more than anything else, the ebb and flow of Darla and that fine (really…does it get any more fine?!) Ralph Angel's love is what has moved me most of all. The writing. The chemistry. The way the love story is constantly unfolding is so… "relatable" is a word that doesn't do those two enough justice, but it's the first one that comes to mind.
"Kofi and I had never met before and he came in and I didn't wanted to run the scene before he came in the room because I like the element of surprise and to see what happens in the moment. You can never get that first moment back. We did the scene and it was good, but after we did the scene, we [improvised.] That was the moment where it just felt that we were on the same wavelength."
When actors have onscreen chemistry, it's palpable and the audience roots for them, even when, as Lawson and Siriboe have seen, if the relationship is tumultuous. According to a funny post on her Instagram page, Lawson is "obsessed" with astrology (she laughs at this description) but can tell you that the two sun sign Pisceans both have Leo rising signs. So even the stars must have aligned to bring these two together.
"[Kofi] likes to say it's because we're both Pisces and we have that deeply intuitive, telepathic thing, which could be true. We can deeply connect depending on the other person's energy."
Personally, I'm not even gonna try to challenge the theory because, last week, when Ralph Angel told his almost-girlfriend that 1) he hadn't been spending quality time with her because he had been supporting Darla through her relapse and 2) he couldn't commit to her because, when it came to Darla, "I can just see now that, when she hurtin', I'm hurtin'. When she bleed, I bleed. I ain't even sure it's much of a choice at this point but, I'm still in love with Darla"—chills. It literally felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation in someone's house. Real acting is when you forget that that is what someone is doing. The characters on Queen Sugar pull that art form off so well.
When it comes to Darla and Ralph Angel specifically, unless you've been watching their story unfold, pretty much since season one, it's hard to understand how loving them love each other is far more impacting and significant than checking out a rom-com or fairy tale for fun. These two have such a raw and real story that, as a marriage life coach, I'm tempted to make it required viewing for some of my clients. Not the dating ones, the married ones. Because man, if there are two television characters that take "for better or for worse" to new heights, Darla and Ralph Angel would most certainly be it.
There's not nearly enough time or space to get into all of their nuances, but if there are three solid reasons why I think, if you are in a relationship, checking out this season On Demand is must-see TV, they are as follows:
Sometimes I'll sit in a premarital counseling session and, although I know that the two people sitting in front of me care a lot about each other, what I also know is they are not remotely prepared enough for something that marriage requires, on some level and to a certain extent, every single day—forgiveness. Yeah, I promise you, with everything in me, that if you're not good at forgiving others (or yourself, for that matter), marriage is going to be really hard, if not close to impossible, for you. The reason why is because love doesn't work without forgiveness. It's not designed to. In fact, a part of what makes love so beautiful is its uncanny capability to "pardon offenses" and "cease to feel resentment against". Even the Bible says so—"Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]." (I Corinthians 13:7-8—AMPC)
Ralph Angel displayed this oh so well when, after Darla found out from her "friend" Jordan that she had been with two men on the night that Blue was conceived, that information devastated her to the point of relapsing and she shared all of this with him, Ralph Angel said, four times on loop, "You ain't got to be sorry." He then followed that up with, "You ain't got nothin' to apologize for. We gonna get through it. You hear me?...Whatever it take Darla, I'm right here with you. You know that? I'm right here."
This man found out last season, that after years of thinking that Blue was his biological son, he actually wasn't. The news caused him and Darla to end things. But now knowing that Darla had been too inebriated to give her consent to the sex that ultimately created her son—the one that Ralph Angel chose to continue to raise as his own—his heart has softened.
Ralph Angel felt betrayed. Understandably so. But his profound love for Darla helped him to see that she had been as well. Because he is a walking example of "love never fails", Ralph Angel is able to look past his fear, his pride and probably even mass confusion and love Darla anyway. Because true love forgives. And endures.
I was just having a conversation with a couple about how, it is my belief, that one of the hardest things about staying married is figuring out how to grow as an individual while remaining intact as one part of a union; especially when one person may be developing light-years ahead of their spouse.
When I was watching Ralph Angel share with Darla that he still had feelings for her in last week's episode, a part of what he said was, "Just because we ain't together, don't mean I don't care about you no more. I have to. My own peace of mind, really…I ain't felt like that since, since we first got together. When we had Blue, I spent so much time, just worrying about you. Did she make it to her dorm OK? She had a good breakfast? Stupid stuff like that…thing is, nobody tells you that loving somebody could hurt so much." In response, Darla asks Ralph Angel if he could forgive her enough for them to go back to how they once used to be. I guess we'll have to see what happens next tomorrow night (September 4).
The roller coaster that is Darla and Ralph Angel. They get together, they break up. She grows, so does he. They get back together again, they break up. She grows some more, so does he. Sometimes, when you're only on the outside looking in, when a couple is in this kind of cycle, you're tempted to call it counterproductive or maybe even toxic. But when you're on the inside looking out, oftentimes what you realize is that the love came before the maturity—now the maturity needs some time to catch up.
Darla and Ralph Angel's journey, to me, is a poetic example of this very thing. Their love is big…HUGE even. But they've needed time to evolve into it. The show is letting them. Sometimes, in real life, we should follow suit.
Love Gives Both People Room to Learn How to Love…More
Something that is really unfortunate about certain break-ups is they come from one of the individuals believing that they've got love mastered.
Listen, as long as you're living and breathing, you will be a student of love. It is too powerful, too perfect, too supernatural for any human being short of Christ himself to be able to do it flawlessly. And for those of us who are paying close attention, every person who crosses our path, they teach us how to love…more. Better too.
There was something about Darla dating someone else this season that showed her the importance of establishing boundaries for the sake of self-care. There was something about who Ralph Angel was seeing (I really dug her too) that taught him the importance of being in something healthy; that relationships should be healthy. When the light bulb went on for both of them, when the lesson was learned from the people they were seeing, they "somehow" ended back together. Love has a way of doing that.
I don't have any idea what the writers have in store for Darla and Ralph Angel moving forward; that includes tomorrow night. What I do know is that what I've seen, thus far, has been a wonderful ode to love and healing. Darla and Ralph Angel's love story is deep, painful, rich, relatable and truly beautiful. Just like love tends to be in the real world. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. If it has to be on a television screen, every Wednesday night, so be it. And thank you. Especially to you Bianca and Kofi. Well done. Salute.
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Feature image by Queen Sugar/OWN