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'Greenleaf' Star Explains What Makes This New TV Family So Different From The Rest

Lynn Whitfield says this powerful African-American family is complex and flawed - but that’s the beauty.

Actress Lynn Whitfield says the new original drama series "Greenleaf," premiering tonight on OWN, showcases a powerful family that is unlike anything depicted before on television.

“I think this story looks at people of African descent in America who are maybe different than anything we’ve seen thus far,” Whitfield says. “The humanity of them, the flaws of them."

"Many of the people I know and that you know are very complex human beings," she continues. "And it’s not all about race. Everything isn’t a question of race. Everything isn’t a question of economics at the very base level.”

Executive producer Oprah Winfrey, who helped bring together an array of African-American actors for the series, says she could hear Whitfield's voice in her mind when she read the script. She was cast as Lady Mae Greenleaf, the matriarch of a wealthy family who run a sprawling Memphis mega-church. It’s a complex role -- Though the Greenleafs are bound together by their love, the family is often conflicted between power and faith.

“These people have very high aspirations," Whitfield explains. "Maybe they sold a little bit of their souls, but at the very core, it’s a good family, and you really get to take a look at how hard it is to sustain that level of power, how hard it is to sustain your morality, your real belief system, in the midst of so much power.”

“Greenleaf” premieres with a two-night event beginning Tuesday, June 21, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Another behind-the-scenes look at the show:

 

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