‘Queen Sugar’s Tina Lifford Was Destined to Play Aunt Vi

Queen Sugar
© 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc/Courtesy of OWN
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Here’s a look at Queen Sugar‘s biggest scene stealer, Tina Lifford:

Who She Plays

Aunt Violet Bordelon, the true monarch of Queen Sugar, who rides herd over her hot-mess nieces and nephew as they try to save their sugarcane farm from financial disaster. “You always know exactly where Violet stands,” Lifford says. “She has a fierce commitment to family, to love and to life, but you do things her way. If not, bye, Felicia!” The all-knowing, all-seeing Vi protects the younger Bordelons with sage warnings like “Everything isn’t as it seems, baby.” Little does she know her younger lover, Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey)—a seemingly honest and terrific guy—is harboring a secret wife. Sugar-coat that!

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Where You’ve Seen Her

Lifford headlined Fox’s ballsy, ahead-of-its-time sitcom South Central (1994), playing a mom from the ghetto who lost a son to gang violence. She went on to showy gigs in TV biopics—as Jackie Joyner-Kersee in Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story (1996) and Winnie Mandela in Mandela and de Klerk (1997). Lifford also spent six seasons as buttinsky grandma Renee Trusell on Parenthood.

Why We Love Her

Long a world-class actress without a fitting showcase for her talent, Lifford—like Alexander Hamilton—is not throwing away her shot. She is fabulously mesmerizing as earth mama Vi. You adore her, respect her, fear her. And, most of all, you want to be her.

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If You Dream It They Will Come

Truth be told, Lifford isn’t all that surprised that she divinely connected with Queen Sugar boss ladies Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay. After all, she wrote it all down in her journal years before it transpired. “I’m a big believer in putting my intentions down on paper,” Lifford says. “I envisioned having really great conversations with Oprah and Ava, and now I find myself in their glorious company. It makes me sit back, look at the universe and go, ‘Wow!’”

Queen Sugar, Wednesdays, 10/9c, OWN.