Oprah Winfrey has tapped herself for a recurring role in the upcoming original scripted drama series, “Greenleaf,” that’s in development at her self-titled cable TV network, OWN.
The project hails from Craig Wright (“Six Feet Under,” “Lost”), and will follow “the unscrupulous world of the Greenleaf family and their sprawling Memphis megachurch, where scandalous secrets and lies are as numerous as the faithful.”
Clement Virgo is executive producing as well as directing the first episode of the series.
Winfrey will join the previously cast: Keith David, who will star, playing Bishop James Greenleaf, the charming and charismatic but brilliantly manipulative leader of Greenleaf World Ministries; Lynn Whitfield has been cast to play Bishop Greenleaf’s wife Lady Mae, described as a steely woman who loves money and power and will do absolutely anything to protect her position as the First Lady of Greenleaf World Ministries; Merle Dandridge will play Lady Mae’s estranged daughter Grace, a disillusioned former preacher who returns home after fleeing her contentious family 20 years ago; Desiree Ross is Grace’s teenage daughter, Sophia, who finds her new extended family and extravagant new surroundings a welcome change from her previously isolated, middle-class life in Phoenix; Lamman Rucker will play Jacob Greenleaf, the eldest bum son of the Bishop and heir apparent to the Greenleaf empire; Kim Hawthorne has signed up to play Kerissa Greenleaf, Jacob’s ambitious and controlling wife; And finally, Deborah Joy Winans is Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee, youngest daughter of the Bishop and also the church’s Minister of Music.
Winfrey will play Mavis McCready, the sister of Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynne Whitfield’s character) and a close confidante of Grace Greenleaf (played by Merle Dandridge).
First announced 2 months ago, OWN has given a straight-to-series order for what it calls a megachurch drama, which will unfold over a 13-episode season.
Oprah said, “When I first read the script, I instantly felt an affinity for the characters and loved Craig’s creative vision for a fictional drama on an epic scale… This show is going to be a fun ride and will hopefully have viewers on the edge of their pews week after week.”
“Greenleaf” is the 3rd original scripted series (full series or miniseries) for OWN that isn’t Tyler Perry branded. The other 2, which haven’t become realities, include an adaptation of “Queen Sugar,” which Ava DuVernay is developing, although no ETA yet; and then there’s what is supposed to be a two-night event mini-series, “Tulsa” (working title), to star Octavia Spencer which will tell the story of the largest race riot in U.S. history, where over 300 people were believed to have been murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. No ETA on that either.
Two months ago, OWN also announced what it called a landmark television event titled “Belief,” coming this fall – a week-long documentary series airing over seven consecutive nights that depicts how people with a wide range of beliefs search for deeper meaning and connection with the world around them – the rituals, stories and relationships that bind us together as human beings.
The documentary series will explore humankind’s ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves, traveling all over the world, and to places “cameras have rarely been,” in search of the origins of our diverse faiths.
The series will premiere on Sunday, October 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.