Tribeca 2016: All Hell Breaks Loose in Greenleaf

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Tribeca 2016: All Hell Breaks Loose in Greenleaf
by Dominga Marting

April 24, 2016

OWN’s new drama centered around a Megachurch pulls no punches

Greenleaf poster

“We either have shows like Touched by an Angel or good Christian bitches,” says Craig Wright, the writer of Greenleaf. An Emmy-nominated writer who has penned hit shows like Lost and Six Feet under. Craig joins director Clement Virgo (Book of Negroes) and together they set the tone for a Megachurch drama that will rustle feathers, provoke dialogue and tell the raw truth according to the perspective of this dysfunctional Christian family: The Greenleaf Family.

Bishop Greenleaf (Keith David) is the patriarch of the family, joined by his wife, Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whitfield), their son Jacob (Lamman Rucker) daughters: Charity (Deborah Joy Winans) and the estranged daughter Grace (Merlee Dandridge) who returns home after 20 years, after the mysterious death of her sister Faith. Oprah Winfrey rounds out the perfectly cast ensemble as Aunt Mavis—who runs a “hole in the wall” in Memphis, the homebase for the family and their church: Calvary Fellowship World Ministries.

Greenleaf Tribeca Premiere - Oprah Winfrey and Lynn Whitfield

Greenleaf had it’s world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of its Tribeca Tune In, to a packed audience, who participated in a Q&A after the screening. Audience members were taken on a bumpy roller coaster ride of dips and rickety turns–for once this ride gets started, it doesn’t let you off the hook. Pearls will be clutched and feathers will be ruffled because although this is a scripted drama about a fictional family who grew up in the church, there are underlying themes of truth. Raw unadulterated truth, that quite frankly some “good Christian folk” may not want to face. Greenleaf lifts the veil, provoking dialogue and confronting the inner fabric of an imperfect being, unafraid to let the cards fall where they may.

Greenleaf Tribeca Premiere - Cast and Crew

The Greenleafs aren’t perfect—they are confronted with their demons, they are committing sin, they are hiding secrets, their faith is tested, and it is happening within the backdrop of a Megachurch…but not just any Megachurch, it takes place in a black church. Although the head writer of the show is a white male, who grew up in a church very different from the black church, he was often called to task for certain moments within the script that would not be accepted. I mean, because afterall, Oprah would not have blasphemy! (PUN INTENDED) However, according to one of the writers, she often consulted with “The Saints” of her church before moving forward with certain moments in the story. It makes one wonder, what was ruled against, because heads are rolling in Episode 1.

Greenleaf Tribeca Premiere - Cast on stage

Writers, Producers, Directors have all grown up in the church and relied on their personal experiences to add a realness to the story, while embellishing on the drama written for TV. Greenleaf is not based on anyone’s life or any Megachurch, it is a fictionalized drama that skates on thin ice. You will either love it or hate it, however the underlying theme is a story about: Redemption, Healing and Restoration.

For those of us familiar with scriptures, here’s a clue: “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” (Proverbs 11:28)

Greenleaf - Oprah Winfrey as Mavis McCready and Lynn Whitfield as Lady Mae Greenleaf

So the question is, will the family rise or fall? Will they be redeemed? Will they be healed or is all hell about to break loose? We shall watch and see!

The drama has it’s 2 day network premiere on OWN June 21 (10 pm) and June 22 (10 pm ET/PT). Regular scheduled time: Wednesdays at 10PM ET/PT.

Other cast members include: Desiree Ross, Kim Hawthorne, Gregory Alan Williams and Tye White.

Executive Producers: Oprah Winfrey, Craig Wright and Clement Virgo


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