Summertime in the Rockies Just Got Hotter A Candid Conversation with “Queen Sugar’s” Timon Kyle Durrett
Hollywood’s new heartthrob has turned up the heat and is taking television by storm. Timon Kyle Durrett is the definition of a renaissance man, with classic good looks that pale in comparison to his award-winning personality and the outstanding talent bursting from an impressive repertoire.
Move over Morris Chestnut! Step asideShemar Moore! There’s a new It-Man in town, and he’s taking the sweltering summer heat in Denver to record highs.
Timon Kyle Durrett is a seasoned actor, producer, model and artist who turns every project he touches into gold. Mainstream audiences are finally catching up to Durrett’s whirlwind career as he plays the leading role of Davis West, the basketball superstar husband we hate to love, in Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking television series, “Queen Sugar.”
The Mile-High City played host to Durrett during his June visit to attend the Colorado Beautillion-Cotillion, Inc.’s eighth annual beau and debutante ball. As the evening’s guest of honor, the Phi Beta Sigma member joined a host of proud African American families in the ceremonious welcome of dashing beaux and stunning debutantes into adulthood. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Durrett to talk Queen Sugar and discuss his inspirational new book, “Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?”
From our first meeting atop the balcony of Denver’s magnificent Union Station, to the star-studded gala, hosted by former Denver Broncos offensive tackle, Ryan Harris, and Phoenix Jackson of the Phoenix Affect, Durrett was refreshingly candid about his success and his commitment tobe his best self along with what has been a remarkable journey.
An Illinois native, Durrett grew up in Chicago’s southside neighborhood. He was the youngest of eight children, and despite his budding artistic and athletic talent, the strict rules of his religious household limited his involvement in extracurricular activities. In high school, Durrett held his first job alongside childhood friend Jevon Robertson, rehabilitating the interior of a residential community for the elderly.
“We were the top artists at our high school and we got hired to paint murals at an elderly home. The walls were drab and beige, so we painted landscapes to give the residents something to look at. Every day after school, we would paint, and the people would sit around and watch us. It was great!”
As the years progressed, Durrett’s art and athletic prowess received a great deal of attention, but he refrained from events and activities recognizing his accomplishments until he could no longer deny the passion driving his desire to perform. Durrett’s mother saw that he had extraordinary talent and acting potential; it was her support that catapulted him into his first professional acting experience.
“One day my mother wrote down some information she heard on the radio about a made-for-television movie titled, There Are No Children Here, starring Oprah Winfrey. I auditioned and landed an extra role. Once I made it on set and saw the cameras, lights, and all the people rushing around, I was hooked!” Despite not having an agent or headshots, Durrett’s first acting role alongside the marveled entertainment guru Oprah Winfrey was followed by several print and commercial advertisements, runway modeling jobs and eye-candy calendar shoots. In the mid-1990s, Durrett relocated to Lorman, Mississippi, where he attended Alcorn State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Even as a college student, Durrett, who describes himself as a big nerd, showed great discipline, continuing to build his portfolio with various acting and modeling projects while creating beautiful visual art. He graduated Cum Laude as the number four student in his department.
Sadly, Durrett’s mother passed away in 2001, before getting to experience his rise to stardom.
“I know she’s watching me right now, but I wish I could give her a hug after receiving an award and say, ‘Hey look Mom, I told you I was going to make it!’ It’s bittersweet.” Thinking back over his unique path to success, Durrett recalls how his mother gave him his name, “She named me Timon, thinking that she’d come up with something original; but one day, it was brought to my attention that my name is actually found in the Bible.” Timon is written in Acts 6:5, as one of the members of a group of men that is full of “faith and the Holy Spirit.” Durrett, drawing the parallel between the book of Acts and his profession as an actor and standing 6-5, continues to feel the angelic presence of his mother’s love and guidance at his side as life is marked by success after serendipitous success.
Just two months after his mother’s death, Durrett moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, where his hard work and determination resulted in a hefty collection of notable acting credits. Durrett has appeared in several box office hits, including Like Mike, Heroes, 72 Hours, and Michael D. Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut. In 2012, he landed a role on VH1’s highly-rated television series, “Single Ladies;” playing opposite Stacey Dash’s as her coveted boyfriend, Quinn.
Following his success in Los Angeles, Durrett decided to move across country to Atlanta. “I had a few credits under my belt, and I believed that I was going to go out there and be a big fish in a small pond, but it didn’t happen that way,” he explained. “My truck was broken into; I had a horrible flea problem in my apartment and I didn’t have any pets. On my way to auditions, my truck would break down and I was constantly losing money. I was really going through it.”
What happened next is nothing short of miraculous. Durrett, frustrated by the lack of work and struggling to make ends meet, was ready to quit acting when he got a call that would change his life.
“I was in the business center of the leasing office at my apartment complex. I couldn’t afford cable, so I didn’t have Wi-Fi, and my data-plan was limited so I had to go to the office to apply for a job. The online application had all these fields, and each time I would try to submit it, there was an error that kept it from going through. I had to start all over again four times. After the fifth time, I pushed my laptop back in tears thinking, ‘I’m about to get evicted!’ Meanwhile, I was using the Wi-Fi in the office to update my phone, and when it was finished updating I saw that I had a two-minute voicemail from my agent. Twenty-four hours later, I was sitting in a room with Ava DuVernay, test reading for ‘Queen Sugar’.”
Based on Natalie Baszile’s novel of the same name, “Queen Sugar” hails as television’s outstanding new drama series; created and executively produced by Oprah Winfrey and renowned filmmaker Ava DuVernay. In a move that Durrett calls “refreshing,” DuVernay defied industry trends and selected a team of all-women directors for the first time in history.
Durrett responded to critics who scrutinized the revolutionary decision and wrote it off as a risk or chance. “Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Kat Candler, DeMane Davis, all the people who are at the helm of this thing, they didn’t take a chance. Oprah Winfrey doesn’t take chances. Ava DuVernay doesn’t take chances. They took a turn!”
“Queen Sugar” premiered in 2017 with enormous success. The series, in its third season on the OWN Network features gorgeous cinematography, emblazoned by delicate traces of femininity, and the soulful essence of a woman’s perspective. Durrett, whose personal ideology recognizes the feminine personification of a God-source, is more than pleased with the directorial cast and praises DuVernay’s selection.
“Women are nurturing. Mother Earth is everything! I never liked the idea that women got less pay than men. I never liked the idea that women, especially Black women, were unprotected, unwanted, overlooked and underpaid. I have sisters; I have a mother; I have nieces; I have friends. Men have screwed the world up. There are far more male world leaders than women and look at where we are. There needs tobe balance.”
“Queen Sugar” is the perfect balance of masculinity and femininity, with Durrett adding his own rugged charm to the evocative cast. “I tell people, a man can build a house, but it takes a woman to make a home. Men can do the heavy lifting, but women bring in the love. Men cannot live without women and women cannot live without men. We have to have each other.”
Durrett plays the character of Davis West, the star basketball player of the series’ Los Angeles Gladiators, father of Micah and husband to the beautiful business mogul and youngest Bordelon sibling, Charlie Bordelon-West, played by Dawn Lyen-Gardner. “Queen Sugar’s” first season opened with a glimpse into the fairytale marriage of Davis and Charlie, and for a brief time, the West Family’s Black love was the epitome of relationship goals. Fans were devastated to learn of Davis’ distasteful infidelity and involvement in the catastrophic sexual assault case that would tear his family apart.
DuVernay brilliantly links the fictitious world of Queen Sugar to recent entertainment news surrounding sexual misconduct and abuse. As the female-charged #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gain momentum, the campaigns for gender equality are leading a cultural reckoning and giving a collective voice to women who have experienced sexual misconduct or abuse at the hands of powerful entertainers and executives in Hollywood.
Durrett calls the recent allegations a wake-up call for men who need to educate themselves on consent. While Davis and Micah are both absolved of their involvement in “Queen Sugar,” power players Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are among the first big-name celebrities being taken to task and held accountable for the abuse of their power and the violation of dozens of victims.
Despite having been thrust into the international spotlight as the accused perpetrator of sexual assault, Durrett garners more admiration than animosity for his on-screen deeds when he encounters fans in public. “I love that I have the opportunity to pull at the heart strings of “Queen Sugar” fans. When people see me, they always tell me they appreciate what we’re doing. We give a voice to their silent reality. To be chosen to be part of something so artistically robust is very special.”
Season two follows Davis and Charlie through a scandalized public divorce, with Davis attempting to repair the strong father-son bond he shared with son Micah, played by Nicholas Ashe. Micah, who must navigate adolescence in the unfamiliar terrain of the Deep South, experiences a traumatic arrest after driving while Black.
“Queen Sugar” shines a light on systemic and institutionalized racism, deficiencies within the justice system, and inhumane conditions experienced by youth and adults within Louisiana’s privatized prison system.
Durrett draws on his own experiences as a father to portray strength as he supports Micah through the post-traumatic effects of police brutality and family drama. “As a father, I can imagine the frustration, anger and sorrow of having experienced something like that.” He shares what he has learned about manhood and fatherhood from playing Davis West in words of encouragement for young men struggling to deal with the effects of trauma, “We have to own up to what we’ve done and make peace with who we are, where we are. Sometimes things get broken, but they’re not ruined. We can be flawed but still do what we need to do. We have to move on from the pain because hurt people, hurt people.”
“Queen Sugar” is Durrett’s favorite project to-date. “With the show in its third season, you get to see the different layers pulled back from this character who is Davis West; a pretentious, hopefully maturing, loving and doting father, but wayward husband.” Durrett identifies with Davis West and seizes every opportunity to use his platform to encourage and empower men who struggle in their relationships and as fathers.
“Davis has a lot of baggage. He represents life in a way that someone out there can relate to. I’ve never been the subject of something as serious as a public rape scandal, but I’ve been vilified for things that I’ve done, and I’ve made mistakes without people forgiving me. I’ve been scorned and scoffed at, but I’ve also been loved and forgiven. I’ve been understood and misunderstood. There’s a balance within my life that I’m able to inject into the life of the character.”
Durrett’s acting career has flourished with the support and mentorship of his best friends, former receiver for the Green Bay Packers, Donald Driver, and fellow actor Lamont Thompson. “In this industry, I’m fortunate to have friends who have been at the height of fame and can show me how to conduct myself. Donald is one of the best people and men I’ve met in my life, and Lamont pulls me to the side and shares wisdom without sugarcoating anything. I have a great deal of admiration for both of them.”
Going forward, Durrett is excited about his future on-screen and off. He looks forward to acting roles that challenge him physically and allow him to display his magnificent strength and agility, and explore his lifelong interests in science-fiction, action and adventure.
“There are a lot of people I want to work with. I would love to do something with Will Smith! I’m a big kid and a prankster. I love making people laugh, and I love to have fun. I will be an action-figure before it’s all said and done!”
With confidence, clarity, and a few potential projects in the works, Durrett exemplifies character and integrity as he constantly challenges himself to reach new heights. In his inspirational new book, “Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?,” Durrett outlines the key to his success and encourages readers to be unreservedly honest as they develop greater self-awareness and navigate personal and professional endeavors.
“I woke up one morning, and I started thinking, ‘What can I do better?’ I sat down and started writing a list of subjects that were important to my development and I began to expound upon each subject with as much honesty as I could. There’s one person on this planet that you can never lie to: yourself.”
Each chapter is a guide that urges readers to undergo self-evaluation, introducing concepts and phrases that can be applied to the pursuit of personal greatness. In the wake of glowing reviews, Durrett is planning to educate and inspire young people and adults with the launch of a motivational speaking tour based on the wisdom offered in the book. “There’s a lot more about me that I want to share,” he says. With a newfound passion for publishing, Durrett anticipates the release of his next literary composition or as he calls it, “The best-selling science fiction novel in history!”
Durrett’s inspiring career is the result of passion, preparation and perseverance. As his career continues to soar, he is making his mark and building a legacy of kindness, determination, and truth. Using his platform to live out his purpose, Durrett reminds us, “Be true to yourself, live in your truth, and everything else you do is going to flourish!”