NBC ordered the pilot episode for Indigenous family drama Sovereign from Bird Runningwater and Ava DuVernay. This will be the first Indigenous family drama developed for network television. Syndey Freeland and Shaz Bennett will write the pilot from a story by DuVernay, according to Deadline.
Sovereign chronicles the lives of an Indigenous family struggling to control the future of their tribe against outside forces and themselves. This is the third Indigenous show in development for television. Sierra Ornelas and Ed Helms created Rutherford Falls for the Peacock streaming service. And Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi created the coming of age comedy Reservation Dogs for FX. All three shows will include a Native cast.
Runningwater is Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache. He grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. He’s been involved in the Indigenous film community since 1996, supporting more than 140 different Indigenous filmmakers. He is also a member of the 2019 class of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Freeland is a member of the Navajo Nation and grew up in Gallup, New Mexico. She is also one of Runningwater’s mentees. Her debut feature, Drunktown’s Finest, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive the Jury Prize at L.A. Outfest. She directed the digital series Her Story, which received an Emmy nomination in 2016 for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series. She also directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Fear the Walking Dead.
Freeland and Bennett will executive produce with DuVernay. And ARRAY’s Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes will co-executive produce with Runningwater. There are no details about when Sovereign will debut at this time.