Oprah: Why I Knew Lynn Whitfield Would Be Perfect for Lady Mae Greenleaf

Season 1
When casting Lady Mae Greenleaf in OWN’s new mega-church drama Greenleaf, Oprah knew instantly who she wanted for the role.

Lady Mae, one of the key roles in Greenleaf, is the wife of Bishop James Greenleaf, the patriarch and powerful preacher of Greenleaf World Ministries. While Bishop James is a brilliant orator, Lady Mae has a uniquely influential role as the First Lady of the church. There was never a doubt that actress Lynn Whitfield was perfect for the role, Oprah says. “There was early talk of me playing Lady Mae, and when I read it, I just thought, ‘Wow, is that a fantastic, juicy, wonderful character to play.’”

Ultimately, when Oprah realized it wasn’t for her, she knew instantly that Lynn Whitfield could take it on because of their work together on the TV series The Women of Brewster Place. “I remember doing a scene with Lynn. Something wasn’t exactly right, and I remember hearing Lynn whisper to the director that she would like to see it a centimeter better,” Oprah says. “Now that stuck with me because she didn’t say, ‘I need it an inch better,’ ‘It needs to be better’ or ‘It needs to be a lot better.’ She just said, ‘A centimeter, I think I can do it a centimeter better.’ And it’s that kind of a precision and the articulation of that kind of preciseness about your life that just comes natural for her.”

People tuning in to Greenleaf who are unfamiliar with Lynn Whitfield are in for a treat. “She is naturally sophisticated, and I just felt that she could knock that role out of the park and would be fun and interesting and would have multiple layers behind what it means to be the first lady of a church, which is a very big deal.’”

Tune in for the two-night season premiere on Tuesday, June 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and Wednesday, June 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and 10 p.m. ET/PT. The remaining episodes will air regularly on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.