By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
“Greenleaf,” the hit megachurch drama from award-winning writer/producer Craig Wright (“Lost,” “Six Feet Under”), takes viewers into the unscrupulous world of the Greenleaf family and their sprawling Memphis megachurch, where scandalous secrets and lies are as numerous as the faithful.
Born of the church, the Greenleaf family loves and cares for each other, but beneath the surface lies a den of iniquity – greed, adultery, sibling rivalry and conflicting values – that threaten to tear apart the very core of their faith that holds them together. “Greenleaf” stars Merle Dandridge (a Roosevelt University alum) as Grace Greenleaf; Keith David as Bishop James Greenleaf; Lynn Whitfield as Lady Mae Greenleaf; Kim Hawthorne as Kerissa Greenleaf; Lamman Rucker as Jacob Greenleaf; and Deborah Joy Winans (of the Gospel Winans’ family) as Charity Greenleaf-Satterjee.
There has been so much going on in the first four episodes of Season 5 that it’s hard to imagine that this show is in its final season. The fight for the Greenleaf-led Calvary seems futile, as Bob Whitmore (played by Beau Bridges) and Harmony and Hope Ministries are planning a final Sunday service before tearing the old building down as they look to gather the flock again in a new edifice.
Charity’s heart has been broken, as well as Grace’s when she has to deal with her son A.J.’s desire to end it all.
Bishop Greenleaf is behaving like a lovesick teenager as he and Lady Mae plan to remarry. So many secrets have been revealed thus far, with more conniving, back room deals and surprises promised.
Last year, the Crusader was invited on a press trip to Atlanta to visit the set of “Greenleaf,” and I was able to interview a couple of the key female actresses. I spoke with Dandridge. At that time, she talked about the family needing to have faith during the transition of them not being in charge of Calvary. “There have been some fractures, and necessity can be the mother of invention,” she said. “Perhaps God put this in the family’s life for just that purpose. They had to deal with each other and work together. When you have faith and you trust, He can take a negative and make it into the most beautiful thing.”
Dandridge got her start on the Chicago theatre scene while attending Roosevelt’s theatre program. She has also done previous television work and had previously been honored with the university’s 2018 Chicago College of Performing Arts Distinguished Artist Award. About that recognition, she said: “There is a precious and sweet satisfaction in hearing ‘job well done’ from the university that first invested in my potential, then backed it up by giving me a tool box full of gifts to ensure my success.”
“Greenleaf” has garnered 10 NAACP Image Award nominations, including wins for Outstanding Drama Series in 2020, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2019 and 2020 (Lynn Whitfield). Check out the fifth and final season of OWN’s hit drama “Greenleaf” on Tuesday nights at 9/8 Central time.