Shadow and Act has learned that NBC has given a put pilot commitment to a drama project, Sovereign, which is from Ava DuVernay and co-executive produce Bird Runningwater. The pilot was written by Sydney Freeland and Shaz Bennett from a story by DuVernay.

This marks the first Native American family drama developed for network television. The project chronicles the lives, loves and loyalties of a sprawling Indigenous family struggling to control the future of their tribe against outside forces and themselves.

The project is produced by DuVernay’s ARRAY Filmworks in association with Warner Bros. Television. Freeland and Bennett will executive produce with DuVernay. ARRAY’s Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes also will co-executive produce with Runningwater.

This is a part of DuVernay’s Warner Bros. Television Group overall deal, under which she produces OWN’s Queen Sugar and Cherish the Day, the upcoming NBC social family experiment series Home Sweet Home and more. Outside of this, she is also developing the Netflix limited series, Colin in Black & White, based on the young years of Colin Kaepernick.

Co-executive producer Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 2001, he has guided and mentored the global Indigenous film community by nurturing a new generation of filmmakers. Runningwater, who is based in Los Angeles has supported more than 140 different Indigenous filmmakers through his work.

Pilot co-writer Sydney Freeland is a member of the Navajo Nation. Her features include Drunktown’s Finest and Deidra and Laney Rob a Train. She’s directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, P-Valley, Nancy Drew and more. Pilot co-writer Shaz Bennett gained recognition for her debut feature Alaska Is a Drag, which screened and won awards at several film festivals. She made her episodic television directing debut on Queen Sugar and has also worked on Billions and Bosch. 

 Photos provided by NBC (Credit: ARRAY, Kaz Kipp, Getty Images, Shaz Bennett)