Move on over Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, OWN has a new and dynamic Black family soap opera that’ll be sure to have viewers on the edge of their seats each episode. The Kings of Napa, which premieres on the network on Jan. 11, is centered on a gorgeous and picturesque Napa Valley, California vineyard owned by the Kings.
The family is aspirational with wealth and status that lands them on the pages of design magazines and society pages. The wine business has brought the family success and acclaim. But amid the patriarch’s sudden exit from the company, his three children, wife, and extended family must find a way to keep their reign. But after his exit uncovers secrets the family never knew were there, the Kings grapple to stay afloat both personally and professionally.
Shadow and Act recently spoke with the show’s creator Janine Sherman Barrois and cast members Ebonee Noel, Rance Nix, Ashlee Brian, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Devika Parikh, Karen LeBlanc and Yaani Mondschein.
Sherman Barrois says The Kings of Napa is a decade in the making. “I’ve always wanted to do a family drama and about 10 years ago I met with some couples and we went to Santa Ynez and went to a vineyard and on the way, I called my mom and she said, ‘Oh, that’s a Black-owned vineyard,’ and I said, ‘No it’s not, it’s in Santa Ynez,’ and she said, ‘It’s Black-owned.’ And I learned the vineyard was in fact Black-owned and I started researching all of these other vineyards around the world that were Black-owned and realized this could be a fresh place to set a family drama.”
Wine being the backdrop of the show is intentional to showcase a different elegance of Black family life. “I think that we have always been interested in wine but I think the camera, the lens is finally focusing on us and as characters in us, our lifestyle,” she continued. “And I think it’s time that we show how we live, how we drink, how we love, and how we appreciate the art. So I think wine was one of those things.”
Isiah Whitlock Jr., who stars as the King’s family patriarch Reginald, couldn’t agree more. The show hits close to home for him. “I’ve been collecting wine for years and collecting and storing and drinking wine – I have a lot of friends who enjoy wine – and it has always been there,” he added. “It has never ever really been shown or exposed and that was one of the things I loved about this show is that you would be able to see African Americans enjoying wine and enjoying life and wine and enjoying life kind of goes together.”
The selling point for Devika Parikh who stars as Aunt Melanie Pierce who’s surprise revelation threatens the King family was being on OWN. She says she couldn’t pass up the opportunity due to the quality of content the network produces. “The stories are varied but they are high-end,” she said. “There’s another level of money, and education, and we roll on a certain level – I love that. And then working with Janine and her background and the type of stories she likes to tell, I thought: ‘That’s the type of person I want to work with.’”
At the center of the drama are the three King siblings – Ebonée Noel who plays August King, the middle sibling and the family’s brilliant marketing whiz who’s passionate about wine and always looking for new ways to expand the business – Rance Nix plays Dana King, the older brother and the savvy CFO of the winery – and Ashlee Brian who plays Christian King, the youngest brother with swag who manages the winery’s bottling facility but knows little about growing grapes. For Noel, the script was irresistible.
“You could feel that Black excellence, that swag, that just regal energy jumping off the page,” she said. “And it was a real joy to read something like that because it’s very unique in the midst of pilot season to get something like that.”
Catch the rest of the interview with the rest of the cast where they talk representation, family dynamics on and off-screen and more: