LYNN WHITFIELD TALKS GOD AND THE PASSION OF FAITH
With churches and religion under the microscope after worldwide scandalous exposés of the infidelity of pastors, rape in the church and misuse of power, actress Lynn Whitfield believes leadership should take the blame.
Whitfield was in the country to promote the drama series Greenleaf, in which she plays Lady Mae, the matriarch of the Greenleaf family and first lady of their Memphis megachurch.
The show, which premiered in 2016 and is in its third season on Netflix, gives audiences a front-row seat of the story of how the church has got to the point where it’s at right now.
Greenleaf made its local debut on e.tv earlier this year. The channel will broadcast the second season next year, after the series received high praise and ratings. It tells a familiar, but sometimes untold story of the misuse of power and challenges within the church.
This week, the popular actress spoke about her character and career.
“I have had the blessing of having a good pastor and first lady, who really helped me in one of the hardest times of my life. [I was] going through a tough divorce and I saw how those [pastoral] positions are important and powerful at saving souls. As I moved on and out of Los Angeles, I saw this megachurch movement start to garner credits that were not about saving souls or being a true shepherd to a flock of sheep. And I was so discouraged by so many church leaders … and how people had been completely turned off from God, when what had disappointed them had nothing to do with God … It had to do with leadership and man, so when Greenleaf came along I said I would love to do it if we would deal with issues head-on … and that made it appealing.”
A struggle for many artists is being typecast by film directors and producers, and Whitfield agrees this is sometimes the case.
“I think Hollywood feels more comfortable hiring people for what they do well … I don’t think they are happy taking risks at all.
“Yes, I do get typecast and then it’s up to me to find the nuances of each one of these women that make them different … but I think Hollywood does typecast.”
Like any other actress, Whitfield confessed to having challenges: “You all see times when I am working, not when I am not working … you all see the roles that I got and not the ones I didn’t get. My biggest challenge is to embrace social media and create platforms for myself that will keep me working because of my followers … because things are changing … but it’s hard for me to stop life … share life…”
About finding a suitable social media manager, Whitfield said: “I’ve been through a few millennials and they have been alright and I just have to find the right person … it’s a new way of doing things and I have to find the joy in it.” The actress and producer loves our country. “Oh my God! I love South Africa … I was here right after Christmas and into the New Year … but this year I will be home to visit my mother over Christmas.”
At 65 years young and with many accolades, including a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries, a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Josephine Baker in the HBO biographical drama film The Josephine Baker Story (1991) and being a fivetime National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award recipient, Whitfield hopes to one day move to the director’s seat, but feels happy as an actress – for now.
I have had the blessing of having a good pastor and first lady, who really helped me in one of the hardest times of my life
LIKE FINE WINE American actress and producer Lynn Whitfield at the e.tv offices in Johannesburg