Greenleaf: the TV series produced by Oprah in which she plays a childless woman

By Nina Steele 

GreenleafGreenleaf which is currently showing on Netflix, is a TV series with a predominantly black cast. The show delves into the heart of the black community, particularly the fact that the church is often put on a pedestal, even when its leaders are corrupt. Child abuse is another main topic. Oprah Winfrey’s character (Mavis McCready) is the no nonsense aunt of the main protagonist, Grace Greenleaf (played by Merle Dandridge), who returns home after 20 years for her sister’s funeral. Dysfunction is at the heart of the show, and I have to admit that the man accused of child abuse is such an unsavoury character that I nearly stopped watching it. I am glad that I kept watching however, as the show proved to be quite a gem.

Greenleaf, as you may have guessed from the surname of the main protagonist, is also the name of the family at the heart of the show. Church revenues have made them very rich, and their lifestyle reflects it. The matriarch will only travel by private jet and the family’s main residence is grand, with acres and acres of land. The many servants they employ are there to make sure that everyone’s needs are met. In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, lies a lot of pain and secrets that have been tearing the family apart for 20 years.

Indeed 20 years earlier, Merle Dandridge’s character left with the intention of never coming back. Back then, her sister Faith whose funeral she has returned for, made her party to a dark secret, namely that she was being sexually abused by her maternal uncle. Sadly, as is often the case in some families, the claims were dismissed as false. Their mother, played by Lynn Whitfield, believed that her beloved brother could do no wrong, even when all the signs proved otherwise.

While Lynn Whitfield’s character and the man who plays her brother (Gregory Alan Williams) get along extremely well, Oprah, their other sister, has been frozen out. That’s partly because she has always believed that the accusations made against their brother was true. And as if that wasn’t enough, she also gets along extremely well with her niece, who after 20 years, is determined to prove her uncle’s guilt.

I will not go into further details. What I can say however is that things come to a head for the two sisters. At some point during their heated argument, in the last episode of series 1, Oprah his accused of being a “childless whore, who knows nothing about motherhood”. Ouch! It is the classic outdated view that unless you have been a mother, you have no say in child rearing. Of course we all know that’s a fallacy, and the show itself proves it.

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