You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

OWN’s ‘Greenleaf’ Presents Unvarnished View of Mega Church Family

Greenleaf” marks a new chapter in scripted drama for OWN.

The drama about a family that runs a mega church in Tennessee is edgier and earthier than the Tyler Perry sudsers that OWN has had success with in the past two years. It’s also the first scripted series to feature Winfrey in the cast. The series, which bows June 21, had its premiere Wednesday evening at the Tribeca Film Festival. OWN has already renewed the Lionsgate TV drama for a second season.

“Being able to do this series is a dream come true,” Winfrey told the crowd after the screening. “Back when the narrative (for OWN) was we were the struggling, struggling, struggling network, I had a dream of being able to do this kind of scripted television. On the foundation that Tyler laid for us at the network we are able to move into a ‘Greenleaf’ and later this fall, ‘Queen Sugar.’ ”

Created by playwright Craig Wright, “Greenleaf” is an unvarnished look at a family led by a charismatic Bishop (played by Keith David) who has plenty of demons in his immediate family and a fierce and cunning wife (played by Lynn Whitfield). Merle Dandridge plays the daughter who left the fold years ago to become an investigative reporter but returns home after the mysterious death of her sister. Winfrey plays the sister of Whitfield’s character who is estranged from the family and instigates an investigation that could have devastating results for the church.

Wright was a minister in a Christian church before shifting gears into a career as a playwright and TV writer. “Greenleaf” is an effort to take a critical look at institutions and personalities of religion while probing the deeper questions faith and belief in higher powers.

“It’s a story about a lost faith and an attempt to get it back by setting things right,” Wright said of Dandridge’s character.

The setting of a black church was important for Wright, who is white.

“When you try to depict religion in the white church it inevitably degenerates into satire or sanctimony,” he said. In “Greenleaf,” he has characters who can naturally be articulate and demonstrative about their faith. “Even though you’re criticizing and questioning, this show takes faith seriously. It takes their struggles seriously,” Wright said. He called it a gift to be able to “dramatize it in a way that doesn’t devalue it.”

Winfrey said she sees “Greenleaf” as part of her larger mission to use television as a kind of pulpit.

“As big as the dream that God has held for me things get even bigger and better,” she said. “My real role on earth is to lift the consciousness, to use the platform of television to show people new ways of seeing themselves and seeing the problems and the flaws and the dysfunctions we all have.”

Whitfield said she was eager to be involved with a show that deals with religion in an uncompromising way.

“We are so often disappointed by religion and religious leaders,” she said. She hopes the series helps get across the message that “it’s not the messenger you must follow. You have to continue to follow the message. For me to be part of a show that says you better keep your personal relationship with god together — it’s such an honor for me.”

(Pictured: Oprah Winfrey and Lynn Whitfield) 

More TV

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content