Bianca Lawson has been acting for more than half of her life. The 41-year-old actress is most known for her roles in Save the Last Dance, Pretty Little Liars, and Teen Wolf - all of which she plays a younger, girl-next-door character. But Lawson’s role as Darla in Queen Sugar breaks the mold.
Lawson shines as the drama series’s most complex character: a person who was struggling with addiction caught between the mistakes and shame of her past and her desire for a better present and future with her longtime love and son.
Darla may have flaws but she’s a quiet storm determined for better. Lawson commits to the character with a level of vulnerability and subtle emotion that other actresses haven’t been able to do when taking on addiction.
As a person who was dealing with a drug addiction, Darla has a silent strength. She takes accountability for her actions while also refusing to be held back by them. For Lawson, she’s happy to have this perspective shown.
“With addiction is it is such a very lonely disease and it's a lonely road,” Lawson told Shadow and Act. “And even if you're not physically alone, it's emotionally psychically lonely and you it's a very difficult thing to get through on your own. And I think a lot of times for addicts, it's hard to ask for help. There's a lot of shame, there's a lot of guilt, and the burden of judgment. I love that Darla is showing it's possible to overcome it and get through it.”
One way Darla is able to get through her struggles is due to the constant love of Ralph Angel, her longtime partner, and father of her child. In addition to showing another side of addiction, the show does a good job of showing a Black man loving his woman through the throws of addiction, creating an added layer of changing the narrative of love, particularly Black love.
“I think that in terms of what people equate with like love and their ideal partner, sometimes people think, ‘Oh, it's like this material thing or what they buy me or buy me here’ - but no, it's the person that's there with you through the trenches that is present and sees you at your worst and loves you in spite of it because of it,” Lawson said of Darla and Ralph Angel’s love story.
“To see this very sort of like healthy, supportive love is different especially because historically, the black woman is like the strength but on this show, you actually see that the reverse of that as this woman is vulnerable and going through her issues," she added. She has this wonderful Black man that is supporting her and holding her down. I think it gorgeous and beautiful and I love that Darla and Ralph Angel are dismantling that sort of stereotype and showing the other side of it.”
Lawson says fans can look forward to more of Darla’s growth in season 5. The storylines shown this season include how the family grapple with COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter Movement, more familial hurdles, and for Darla specifically, how she rises above it all and works to stay sober to be the best version of herself for her and her family.
“There’s a lot of this season is very reflective what's been happening with the pandemic and COVID, and police brutality,” Lawson continued. “With Darla specifically this is very much a season of light for her. Even in the midst of all of these tragic things that are happening in the world, Darla is progressing. She’s homeschooling and doing things that we haven't entirely gotten to see before. She’s more stable and in a more secure place. It’s not just her kind of alone separate from the family and Ralph Angel. It’s a maturation in terms of her motherhood and in terms of her relationship with Blue.”
Out of all of the characters, Darla has received much of the critical acclaim within the series. Lawson most proud of Darla and considers her to be the strongest character she’s ever played, and the most rewarding.
“I love her so much and even though Darla and I are nothing alike, she’s the most personal for me,” the actress gushed. “In that way, that can be challenging because I think previously, I was very much in those actors that I had to transition into verses embody and relate to and that can be very a tricky thing. With Darla, I'm protective of her. I root for her and I love that she hasn't been perfect. I feel like she's been very, very human.”
Queen Sugar returns to OWN on February 16 at 8 p.m. EST.