'Greenleaf': Interesting Things People Don't Know About the Series

Updated on December 26, 2019
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about various things, including celebrities and entertainment.

The main purpose of this article is not to rehash the storyline of each episode or to provide spoilers. Instead. it is to point out some things about the series that some viewers miss because they are looking at the big picture.

This article is based on those little details that have been compiled not only by watching the show and the cast but also by some in-depth research about Greenleaf and interesting things relating to it. After being aware of those things, fans will see the series much differently and perhaps will enjoy it even more.

Name of Family vs. Name of Church

Some people get the name of the prominent family mixed up with the name of the church. The family's name is Greenleaf that bears the name of the series. The church's name is Calvary Fellowship World Ministries and it is operated as the family's business.

Calvary is one of the most popular names for traditional churches in every city. Therefore, the Calvary in the drama could be any traditional church in any city like the fictional Memphis, Tennessee megachurch in the series that is getting rave reviews.

The television drama series, Greenleaf, was written by Craig Wright, the only white person associated with the series. The executive producers are Oprah Winfrey, Clement Virgo, and Lionsgate Television. Winfrey also has recurring roles in some episodes. Virgo is also the director.

Greenleaf was renewed for Season 2 on April 21 even before Season 1 premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network on June 21, 2016. The fourth season was renewed on September 19, 2018, and premiered on September 3, 2019, to the delight of fans.

Why Greenleaf is the Name of the Family

Writer Wright explains that the series is named Greenleaf because green is associated with money that the Greenleaf family focuses on. Also, every one of the main characters is frail in some way like a green leaf that has fallen from a tree.

Those who have been watching the series since its premiere in 2016 know that every member is as vulnerable as a single leaf with a problem or some issue that must be dealt with.

The Gate

There is more to the big gate than meets the average eye. Many people have seen the big G on the gate when it is closed. However, they might fail to see the lions embedded in the design and two big lions on both sides guarding the gate. Remember, a gate is a metaphor for keeping people and secrets in as well as keeping them out. Besides, the series is produced by Lionsgate Television.

The gate is one full mile from the mansion. That's why in Season 1 Noah Kendall drove Grace and Sofia to the mansion from the gate. If you think back over the seasons, you will remember a lot of major incidents happened at the gate.

  • Grace sees a former lover after 20 years. Noah was Greenleaf Estate's Manager and church Security Chief. He was just weeks away from marrying Isabel. However, that changed after the prodigal daughter returned home.
  • Lady Mae made sure Bishop Greenleaf was locked out of the gate when there was discord in their marriage.
  • One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the series was when rebellious teenager Zora Greenleaf was running away with Isaiah Hambrick who abused her. The gate was witness to the arguments and reasonings from the parents, grandparents, the aunt, the abused, and the abuser.

Why "Greenleaf" Appeals to Many Viewers

The Greenleaf family could be any family. Calvary Fellowship World Ministries could be any megachurch.

Some of the themes that run throughout the series include secrets, lies, molestation, infidelity, adultery, deceit, cheating, betrayal, family arguments, homosexuality, greed, and everything else that could tear families apart and cause turmoil in their church.

Greenleaf has received positive reviews from critics. The series premiere drew 3.04 million viewers, making it the No. 1 series debut in OWN history beating out the premiere of Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots on May 28, 2013.

When the series first began, some viewers wondered if it mocked and disrespected the church. Oprah said she personally called Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas. She assured him that the only things in common with the series and him were the title "bishop" and the setting of a megachurch.

Producer Winfrey said the series does not disrespect the church. It enlightens viewers what goes on behind the scenes of a large church especially one with a large family leading it.

Lynn Whitfield, known as Lady Mae on "Greenleaf"
Lynn Whitfield, known as Lady Mae on "Greenleaf"

In an interview, Lynn Whitfield was asked if there were any concerns about offending black megachurches through the show’s portrayal. The legendary actress said the series isn't that way at all. She told viewers that the series doesn't in any way accuse any church or point a finger at any pastor, church leader or their families.

Tidbits Viewers Might Not Have Noticed

  1. The location of the fictitious church is in Memphis, Tennessee even though the series was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia.
  2. Craig Wright, the writer, was talking to Oprah one day about his past career as a minister. Oprah said that sounds like a series. That was the inspiration for the show.
  3. Finding the right house that the Greenleaf family would live in was a major task for the cast. The one viewers see is not the first one that was considered. Lynn Whitfield is responsible for the interior design of the mansion.
  4. Lynn Whitfield was the only person Oprah wanted to be the First Lady. The two women had worked together before on the miniseries Women of Brewster Place and Oprah liked Lynn's style.
  5. Whitfield's character name on the show is Daisy Mae "First Lady Mae" Greenleaf née McCready. Oprah plays her sister, Marvis.
  6. The dinner scene was 13 pages long in the script. It was the first scene that was shot and none of the actors had worked together before. The cast members were getting to know each other at the same time viewers were getting to know them in Season 1.
  7. The Greenleaf children have biblical terms: Grace, Jacob, Charity, and Faith who died. James and Noah are biblical names as well as Charity's baby whose name is Nathan. Other biblical names are Thomas, David, Aaron, and Isaiah.
  8. Merle Dandridge, who plays Grace "Gigi" Greenleaf, is biracial. She was born in Okinawa, Japan. Her mother was a local Okinawan of Korean descent, and her father was an African American serviceman from Memphis that just happens to be the setting for the series.
  9. Desiree Ross, who plays Sophia, was actually 19 years old when the show first started. She played the part of a minor in a previous season when her father came to get custody of her. Remember, she was still in high school.
  10. Fans are wondering what happened to Noah and Isabel who were scheduled to get married. We have not seen or heard from them since Season 1 after Isabel discovered Noah was still in love with Grace. Isabel said she would give Noah another chance. Then they disappeared from the show and got married. Noah returns in Season 4 with a secret about him and Grace.
  11. Deborah Joy Imani Winans who plays Charity Greenleaf is a worship leader and gospel singer on the show. In real life is a member of the Winans musical family. Deborah is the niece of CeCe Winans. Interestingly, she played the part of her aunt, CeCe, in the 2015 movie Whitney.
  12. Did you know that singer LeToya Luckett who plays Rochelle Cross was one of the original members of Destiny's Child with Beyonce? She and her brother Pastor Basie Skanks had a hidden agenda for establishing a relationship with Bishop Greenleaf.
  13. Your eyes were not deceiving you if you thought you saw actor Tye White on NBC’s Chicago Fire. White plays Kevin Satterlee who divorced Charity for a man on Greenleaf. He played Tyler, Stella's former boyfriend in the seventh season of the Dick Wolf series.
  14. Writer Craig Wright says viewers should pay attention to the titles of each episode because they are x-rays to what that particular episode is about. Most of them have biblical references. For instance, in Episode 11 in Season 1, the x-ray's title was "Men Like Trees Walking." Other titles included "The Promised Land," "The End is Near," and "The Day of Reckoning." "The New Life" was the title of the Season 3 finale on November 21, 2018. The title for the first episode of Season 4 was "Original Sin." As you can see, all episodes do have biblical references.
  15. Celebrities who have appeared as themselves on the show include singers Kirk Franklin and Patti LaBelle, relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant and actor Beau Bridges.
  16. Oprah was sued in April 2018 for alleged copyright infringement. In July 2018, Oprah fought back claiming she did not steal the script from Shannan Lynette Wynn and Pastor Lester Eugene Barrie. The pair claimed they submitted their project Justice & Glory to Oprah, but it was rejected. Instead, they said Oprah is using a big portion of their script as her own. Oprah calls the lawsuit frivolous.

Do you watch "Greenleaf"?

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    • profile image

      Gina Rosato 

      2 months ago

      Absolutely love this show. All of the actors are amazingly talented and so believable as a real family. I want another season and for it not to end!

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      Season 4 by the graveyard, is the young man Grace and Noah's real son lol & more importantly why hasn't Noah been around to help Grace with their son??

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, thanks for reading and commenting. It encourages me to keep on keeping on. I appreciate it very much.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      17 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Margaret,

      I'm putting this in my must-watch list this weekend.

      Stellar work. Informative. Always worth a read and reread.

      Much respect for a talented, creative, and original writer,


    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, the show is in its third season. I didn't watch it at first, but after recommendations from friends and family members I caught up by watching the first two seasons on Netflix.

      After tonight, there will be only three more episodes this season.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      17 months ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Margaret,

      Now, I know more about what Oprah has been doing. This show sounds great although I haven't watched it. Based on your article here, I think I will give it a try.

      It's not surprising they chose Memphis and Atlanta to shoot this show. Many, many megachurches come from those areas, and you were clear this show is not based on any real life megachurch.

      Thanks for another great article.

      Much respect,


    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Winnie, I am glad you read my article where I pointed out some of the details about "Greenleaf." I enjoy a movie more when I know the background about it.

      I loved doing the research and finding out about the series and the cast members. I also loved sharing that information with others.

    • profile image

      Winnie Sagina 

      17 months ago

      Hello Margret Minnicks. I love watching Greenleaf but to my surprise I never noticed all those details.Thank you for this article. At least I will focus on the details next time I watch a movie.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Louise, "Greenleaf" is a very popular series on OWN here in the United States. People look forward to watching it every week. I didn't watch it when it premiered two years ago. When friends convinced me to watch it, I binge-watched the past seasons to catch up. Now, I am hooked.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      17 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I've never heard of this show before, but it sounds like something I would be interesting in watching. =)


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