Home Sweet Home, a New Docuseries by Award-winning Director Ava DuVernay, takes a look into the connections between family, faith, and culture.
Link2Us: What inspired you to create the series Home Sweet Home? How does it connect to your broader body of work?
Ava DuVernay: Well, it all started for me last summer. [As we all experienced], this was a turbulent time in our country’s history— politically, culturally, and racially. We all dealt with and continue to deal with the pandemic and the uncertainty of our own health and family stability. This was a pretty scary time for me, but during these times, my mother and father always taught me to lean on what we believed in. You challenge your belief system with a full focus on what can and will lift you out of the darkness. For me, this really brought me back to the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. And within that, I began to ask myself, what do you really do that goes beyond words? How do you put that into action? How do you reach across the aisle and hold someone’s hand? So as I walked through my neighborhood, and began to realize that I really didn’t know the people in my neighborhood as well as I should. I began to talk and connect with them and thought, wow! We should be doing this on a broader level, and what other kinds of homes I have not been in? Have I ever been in the home of a Sect family, an Orthodox Jewish family? A Muslim family? Have I ever been invited to a Shabot dinner? And do I even know any Mormons? And the answer was no.
So as I created those opportunities for myself, but also created a show to allow these folks to make these visits—and to spend time with other people by the power of television. NBC was courageous enough to take on this project. And though they weren’t sure if the show was going to be a slam dunk, someone had to step up and say, “Hey, this show is worth doing, and we believe in it.” NBC was the only network that took the show. And I am so grateful. But the bigger question is, can we rally around this show and show these other networks that there is an audience for it and a desire for positive television like Home Sweet Home.
L2U: Tell us about some poignant moments that stood out to you from the show?
ADV: Every single episode I learned how brave each family was in the show. First of all, you have to be brave to let total strangers into your house. Into your cupboards. Into your fridge. And in your drawers. People who would literally walk into your home and live there while you’re not there. And then take your kids and go into someone else’s house. They all did it to expose their children to different ways of living and learning and broadening their horizons from the perspective of another family’s culture and religion. So choosing the families became a very particular thing and then presenting them back with their own episodes. I learned so much about their faith. The symbolism at a Shabot dinner… The meaning of the Turbin, and the various practices within religions like not cutting the hair. The entire show is about faith, it’s about religion, it’s about lifestyle and the many different people crossing paths and walking for a few miles in someone else’s shoes. There’s something for everyone when you tune in to the show. There is a lot you can learn once you meet these beautiful families.
L2U: What was your process in selecting the families for the show?
ADV: The one key thing we did in this show was going unscripted. Because I have never done a non-script show before, so it all boiled down to ﬁnding people who didn’t want to be famous. We actually looked for families who weren’t looking to be in the show. The other key piece was doing a show that was not based on conﬂict but curiosity. So we looked for families who were curious and wanted to be apart because they desired to know how other families lived and functioned as a family. Everyone who participated put their whole heart into it and was willing to go through with it during strict health guidelines because it was produced during Covid.
L2U: After the show, did you learn something or gain a new perspective that you were able to walk away with from Home Sweet Home?
ADV: Most deﬁnitely. In particular, I learned about the various faiths, religious and spiritual practices of the families in the show. But I think the biggest thing for me was that I connected with every other faith represented in the show except for Mormon until now. I think I had a fear of Mormons because I didn’t know any. From my limited knowledge of their history, politics, issues on race, and feminism within their faith, I applied blanketly to everyone who practiced the Mormon faith, without knowing the modern iterations, nuances of the faith, the different people, and the different perspectives. When I met the Baltzers (one of the families in the show) for the ﬁrst time, I thought that they were going to treat me differently because I was a black woman. But instead, I found this Morman family to be lovely, gorgeous, and very caring. The process taught me, that you really have to challenge what you know about people. Only then, you will want to get to know other people up close. That’s what I learned.
The series begins airing tonight Friday, October 15, 2021, at 8 pm on NBC.