OWN’s hit television show “Greenleaf” premiered its final season Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The show that has garnered the attention of fans worldwide is now saying goodbye after five successful seasons.
In an original drama series, “Greenleaf” is written and produced by award-winning Craig Wright. The show captures the scandalous lives of the Greenleaf family of Memphis as they maintain their megachurch and high-ranking status in the community against lies, adultery, and greed brewing within the family. In the final season, things will further unravel as family secrets continue to come to light and the family fights to uphold their livelihoods.
Before the season premiere, OWN hosted a screening via Zoom giving the press an early access watch of the first episode, followed by a virtual roundtable with the cast. In attendance were showrunner Craig Wright, Merle Dandridge, Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Lamman Rucker, and Deborah Joy Winans.
The discussion begins with the cast sharing what they are most excited about this coming season. For Whitfield who plays Lady Mae Greenleaf, it’s Bishop James Greenleaf’s (Keith David) storyline. “It’s just so interesting, saddening, and poignant for how the world goes and aging, and losing a position. Losing your place. Losing your status, so to see this beautiful, powerful, Black man spiritual leader head of household. To see the arc of his energy when he’s home,” she says. “So I’m really interested to see how Bishop continues to deal with his journey and how he manifests his purpose to this family and this congregation.”
According to the cast, the show wonderfully paints the image of men growing into themselves. Aside from the Bishop, many cast members are most excited for Rucker’s character, Jacob’s development into a man.
“I think there’s a faith both that I Lamman have and I really believe that Jacob has been nurturing that he’s not operating in as much fear anymore,” Rucker explains. “I don’t know that he fears for anyone in his family. I think he’s always been more confident about them than he has been in himself.”
“I think he’s going to be focused much more on making sure he supports his mother and takes care of his children. So, the relationship that we’ve seen with he and his sisters have been some of my favorite moments too. I think that camaraderie, that alignment, that cooperation that I think they’re building makes him feel really fortified to know he’s not doing it by himself.”
The cast then discussed the impact the show has had. Since 2017, the show has been nominated for several NAACP Image Awards and a winning Gracie Award. Now as the show nears it ends, the cast pride themselves on being able to show the depths of the clergy.
“I think our greatest impact has been in really shepherding our audience into an exploration of church leadership. An exploration that I think can take any person who is willing to take the journey into looking at how they view man and how they view God because man is so fragile, so lovable, so manipulative, so complex, and so undependable,” Whitfield eloquently explains. “Each of these characters had their moment to be that. At the end of the day, this family whose business is a megachurch, I think it impacts our audience and that hopefully, it brings them closer to God. Less looking at the leadership of a church and more looking at a personal relationship with God.”
Dandridge who plays Whitfield’s, daughter, Grace Greenleaf, also added, “I think it has sort of taken the blinders off and it’s made people feel accepted. For a long time, particularly in the Black church community, you felt that you have to come to God a certain way for him to accept you. This show has shown people – come as you are.”
They laughed boastfully over some of the best memories. Often times forgetting they were in an interview session going on as if they were friends over cocktails. The energy of the group exuded through the screen as they showed real respect and adoration for each other that carries over onto the screen. The cast spoke highly of Wright, detailing the ways of which he encouraged the entire team to dig within to pull out the most authentic portrayal of each character.
For the final question, the group was asked what is the biggest takeaway from the show. Whitfield responded that the show has proven to stand the test of time, reaching viewers all over the world and connecting them all.
“The most meaningful element of it all from my heart is that I believe that we have created a story that will stand the test of time. I believe that people will be watching ‘Greenleaf’ in 10 years and 15 years. They’ll be downloading it and streaming it somewhere. I believe that it is not an American phenomenon. I know it’s not,” she says, “Because I was in Africa and I was in South Africa and I saw the acceptance. I hear about it in Nigeria, in the Caribbean, London and Brazil. We’ve created an international classic. A classic that is so human, that is universal and will just stand the test of time.”
Dandridge also answered stating there are many things she’s proud of but, “one is the power of representation [and] that so many people felt seen and understood in these stories.”
Rucker’s point attests to the father and son relationship that has been extremely prevalent in the entire series. Winans, going off the others says are, “The beautifully flawed people.”
“I think for me, it allows me to know that even in my worst mistake, my biggest mess, that I’m covered. I think the show shows that love truly covers a multitude of sins. No matter what I do as Deborah Joy Winans. I know that God loves me and I know that his arms are always open. I feel like that has been reflected in so many different ways in this show.”