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Ashlee Brian Dives Into the Wine Industry on OWN's 'The Kings of Napa'

After recently starring in hit series for streaming networks including Harlem on Amazon Prime, Family Reunion on Netflix, and Tyler Perry's All the Queen's Men on BET Plus, Ashlee Brian is headed to cable television in a leading role in OWN's new family drama, The Kings of Napa. In the series, Brian plays Christian King, the youngest in the King family of affluent Black winemaking entrepreneurs. The series recently premiered on Tuesday (January 11th), and along with Brian stars Ebonee Noel, Rance Nix, Karen LeBlanc, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Heather Simms, and Yaani King, as members of the King family.

During an interview with The Quintessential Gentleman, in his own words, Brian describes Christian as "trying to find himself, after being forced to fill big shoes after unexpected events." "When I first started reading the script, it was very clear to me the magnitude of the project that it was going to be, and I just wanted to be involved every time I turned the page. This world that Janine Sherman Barrois created is something that exists but I didn't see on TV, and I just thought that that was super special and just dove head into that audition," Brian elaborated.

While Black entrepreneurship is depicted amongst an array of industries from entertainment to fashion, Black winemakers and Black vineyard owners are rarely highlighted in mainstream culture. The few entertainment projects that have depicted Blacks in the wine industry prior to The Kings of Napa include Netflix's 2020 film Uncorked. "The stereotype a lot of times when you're on television (especially), and successful and Black, it's like where's the record deal? Where's the sports contract? Where are the drugs at? And for us to just represent this kind of family was very refreshing, " Brian said.

When it comes to specific tastes, Ashlee shared the similarities between himself and his onscreen character." He [Christian] has a love of bourbon, I also love bourbon." Christian also shares some of the ideals that Brian aspired to be. "When I was in high school, Christian is the guy I was willing to be, a cool guy, swagged down ladies man, dresses nice and drives the dope whip. But on top of all of that, he really comes from the heart. He really has a lot of heart and I do too," Ashlee explained.

Although The Kings of Napa may take place in Napa Valley, California, Ashlee shared that the series was filmed at a vineyard in Niagara, Canada. He also discussed that due to the COVID pandemic, many of the pre-filming cast meetings took place via Zoom but by the time everyone got to set, the chemistry was instant. The actor also got some winemaking schooling as part of the role, learning just how meticulous the winemaking process is from growing grapes in the right climates and regions, the importance of soil conditions in growing grapes, and how to serve wine.

"It was an exciting and fun role to play. That was a blessing because every day I went to work, I was like it don't feel like work, this feels like play and it's the kind of the thing that almost exceeded my expectations of what I was asking for as an actor. It was just a blessing. Christian was a blessing," Brian said.

The Kings of Napa can be viewed on OWN on Tuesdays at 8 PM EST

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN


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