Keith David and Lynn Whitfield Speak on the Legacy of Their OWN Hit Series, Greenleaf

By Ronda Racha Penrice

Since the beginning of its five seasons, OWN’s hit series, Greenleaf, has kept viewers tuned in. From Grace (Merle Dandridge) fighting to expose her pedophile uncle and the discovery of her lovechild to her brother Jacob’s (Lamman Rucker) extramarital activities and Charity’s (Deborah Joy Winans) fight to match the vision of herself she has in her own mind, the Greenleaf children have kept the pot stirred. But their parents have also brought the heat. From Bishop’s (Keith David) questionable relationship with Mae’s sister Mavis (Oprah Winfrey) and his not so sound judgement regarding Rochelle Cross (LeToya Luckett) to Lady Mae’s (Lynn Whitfield) secret affair and desire to preach herself, Greenleaf’s patriarch and matriarch have shown that messiness does not have an age group. Heck the grandkids Zora (Lovie Simone) and Sophia (Desiree Ross) even mix it up.

When Keith David and Lynn Whitfield showed up to the AAFCA Virtual Roundtable, they could not dish much on what’s coming up for the fifth and final season. “Life as we know it for the Greenleafs is in jeopardy,” Whitfield, who owns her role as Lady Mae, teased the AAFCA Virtual Roundtable. “And that’s what makes it really juicy though.”

Thanks to Greenleaf, both Whitfield and David have been given roles worthy of their talents. David shared that playing Bishop is “such a gift to my life because, earlier in my life, I used to want to be a preacher.”

For David, the “most wonderful thing” about Greenleaf is “how we are able to reflect real life. . . .we spend lots of time in church and around church, our grandmothers, our mamas. . . and, if you’ve been around church at all, you understand the spirituality of imperfection.”

Whitfield echoed those sentiments. “Far too often, we set our spiritual leaders up on a pedestal and look up to them, when, in fact, they’re supposed to be helping us make our way to God and our personal relationship.”

Working with David, Whitfield shared, has been a meeting of equals. “It was just so great to dance. Sometimes it was doing the funk. Sometimes it was a tango. And often it was like a waltz. But it’s so much fun because we actually really did work through the psychology of a man and a woman trying to negotiate a marriage.”

“It’s great because they do have history,” David added.

“People seem to enjoy the nonverbal communication between us. Because, as people who have been married for 40-something years, Lady Mae and Bishop know each other so well so there’s a lot of sparring and lovemaking and adoration that goes on with no words, which has been such a joy,” Whitfield said.

Playing Lady Mae has been a highlight for Whitfield, whose illustrious career also includes bringing real-life shero Josephine Baker’s story to the screen. “It was an incredible honor and opportunity for me to bring to the screen a powerful black woman, a Southern woman. And so having the power, being on the arm, at the side of such a kingly gentleman even though his judgment may be off from time to time. There were times I felt that we were carrying so much pride, a kind of joy to see two people equally yoked, with issues of course. It was just a great joy and it was not anything that we ever had to work out. Our energies just combined that way.”

David has enjoyed his time with Greenleaf and is proud of what they’ve accomplished over five seasons. “I believe that we’ve been able to balance church business, family business and be respectful to the church, and especially being respectful of these people’s spirituality. And no matter what happened, their deep-seated belief and faith in God never folded or never came into question.

Watch the full interview on The AAFCA Channel on YouTube:

Catch the fifth and final season of Greenleaf Tuesday nights on OWN.

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