God, faith, religious corruption, infidelity, homosexuality, drug abuse, pedophilia and hidden secrets will all be revealed in the Oprah Winfrey Network megachurch drama series, Greenleaf.
The series centers on Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge), prodigal daughter of Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David), leader of Greenleaf World ministries in Memphis, and his regal and cunning wife Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield). Grace returns home after 20 years on the occasion of the mysterious death of her sister, Faith Greenleaf. Unwelcomed by Lady Mae, sister Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee (Deborah Joy Winans) and other family members, Grace is warned not to stir up any issues within the family by her calculating mother.
Favored by Bishop Greenleaf, Grace reenters the world of Calvary Fellowship Ministries reuniting with the secret-keeping, black sheep of the family, Aunt Mavis (Oprah Winfrey). During a visit with her booze serving Aunt, it is revealed that Mavis has incriminating information on a family member and encourages Grace to bring those secrets to light.
Yesterday [April 20th] executive producers Oprah Winfrey, Craig Wright (Lost, Six Feet Under) and Clement Virgo (The Book of Negroes) gave a small group of New York press insight on how the production and storyline came about, along with a post-screening Q&A including cast members Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Merle Dandridge, Lamman Rucker, Kim Hawthorne, Tye White and writer/story editor Erica Anderson.
The project stemmed from conversations between Wright, who was once a minister himself, and Winfrey about the role of the churches in the African-American community.
“When you look at the history of attempts to do shows about white churches on TV it always sort of degenerates, I think understandably into either satire or sanctimony,” Wright says. “Either you have Touched By An Angel or you have Good Christian B*tches. A lot of what made this project really appealing to me is that by starting this conversation with Oprah, and learning from her about the Black church and learning from our writing staff and all of the actors and the people we interviewed and stuff, we got to come up with a show about people who’s faith was real.” he said. “It doesn’t seem silly, it doesn’t seem laughable or foolish, it actually seems deeply grounded and important and integral to the lives of the characters, so you actually take their struggles seriously.”
“My real role on Earth is to lift the consciousness,” she said, “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.”
Filled with twists and turns, the overall message of the series is backed by faith. Will this family be torn apart by years of secrets, dishonesty, abuse, and turmoil? Or will their faith in God be the test that will bring them together?
Greenleaf is set to air on OWN for a two-night special beginning June 21 (10 p.m. ET/PT).