Lynn Whitfield, Merle Dandridge and Desiree Ross are the first actors to be cast in OWN’s upcoming original scripted drama series “Greenleaf.”
First announced last month, OWN has given a straight-to-series order for what it calls a megachurch drama, which will unfold over a 13-episode season.
The project comes 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. Greenleaf described is the center of the community for the thousands of predominantly African-American members who attend services there. But beneath its steeple lies a den of iniquity — greed, adultery, sibling rivalry and conflicting values.”
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.”
Dandridge will play Lady Mae’s estranged daughter Grace, “a disillusioned former preacher who returns home after fleeing her contentious family 20 years ago.”
And 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.”
I initially thought that the project was based on a real-life Greenleaf family, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, although I won’t be surprised if Wright, a former minister himself, who will write the scripts and executive produce alongside Winfrey, finds some inspiration from real life.
“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.
Last month, 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.
With regards to “Greenleaf, 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.”
Having a creative who’s produced and written for hits shows like “Six Feet Under” and “Lost,” is certainly promising.
Kudos to the first actors cast.