When the footage debuted, Variety reported that Gardner would not be a series regular for the final season’s 13 episodes, noting that at the end of Season 6, the character made her reconciliation with estranged husband Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett) more official, accepting his remarriage proposal and planning to move back to Los Angeles. With the primary action of Season 7 taking place in the fictional Louisiana parish of St. Josephine, Charley’s storyline would instead be tracked in a number of episodes across the season.
But ahead of the debut of Tuesday’s season premiere, Gardner took to social media to explain that she “did not participate” in the making of the show’s final hours.
“I will always cherish portraying the woman I’ve poured my heart into for six years, known to the world as Charley Bordelon — as well as the opportunity to work alongside so many incredible artists,” Gardner captioned her post, sharing a selfie posed in front of herself in character during Season 1.
“To my cast family: you are in my heart forever,” her caption continued. “To the writers, directors, crew, post and pre-production folks and so many more BTS: I remain grateful and honored to have built what we built together for the six seasons prior to now.”
Garnder also shouted out the “beloved fans” of “Queen Sugar,” referring to them as “the true lifeblood of the show.” To them, she wrote: “Thank you for your love, your support, your tears, your laughter, your social media turn-up, and most of all, your willingness to see yourself — and love yourself — within Charley’s brilliance and complexity. For me, it was always the goal that our audience be deepened and celebrated in her walk.”
She concluded: “Looking forward to what the future holds and truly grateful to all of you who will join me for the ride! Until then, signing off for now and sending love in all the ways…”
Following Gardner’s announcement, her “Queen Sugar” family weighed in in the comments section, sharing their love for the actor. “We Love You,” Durrett wrote. “You’ve helped make our [‘Queen Sugar’] journey such a Sweet Ride. You see what I did there…?” Nicholas L. Ashe, who plays Gardner’s son Micah, seconded the sentiment, writing in all caps, “I love you forever.” Series creator and executive producer Ava DuVernay left five crown emojis, among numerous other messages of support and well-wishes.
As much respect as Gardner’s colleagues showed online, her on-screen performance has also been lauded over the years. In 2022, she was nominated for outstanding actress in a drama series alongside co-star Rutina Wesley. She’s also nabbed four nominations in the same category at the Black Reel Awards for Television.
As such, the news came as a surprise to fans, but the season premiere episode offered a little more clarity about how Charley’s storyline moves forward.
Written by Shaz Bennett and directed by Kat Candler, the episode — titled “And When Great Souls Die” — centers on the christening of Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) and Darla’s (Bianca Lawson) baby, Tru. Gardner’s Charley is referenced throughout the episode, having sent a gift to her brother’s baby because she cannot attend the baptism and naming ceremony thanks to her busy schedule pursuing her political career. Charley appears a few times in the episode via FaceTime, including a brief conversation with Micah, where she’s rushing off to ”a slew of party leadership meetings.”
“Queen Sugar” airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT on OWN. All previous episodes are currently available to stream on Hulu.