“For so long, it felt like you had to have been a certain kind of good to walk into church or even feel like you could pray. Our show has broken that barrier.“
By Michael P Coleman
The wait is almost over! Tonight, OWN’s critically acclaimed drama, Greenleaf, returns with its fifth and final season.
The entire cast has been making the rounds, so I was honored when Deborah Joy Winans, who plays “Charity” on the series, returned my phone call late last week. I had to find out what Greenleaf fans can expect!
“Charity’s life has blown up,” Winans said. “Since day one, things have fallen apart in horrific ways. But when you change your perspective, you can see the beauty in the mess because you can see how you have changed and, hopefully, grown.”
“You can see where God uses your mishaps to make you a better person, and that becomes quite beautiful,” Winans continued. “It hurts, but when you finally see God’s hand in putting things back together, you see the beauty in all of the pain that you endured.”
“It’s a beautiful catastrophe!”
Winans was born into a gospel music dynasty (her father, Carvin, is a founding member of The Winans, and she has an uncle Benjamin and aunt Priscilla who the world still remembers as BeBe & CeCe). So it’s no surprise that she has spoken so freely over the years of God’s grace.
But I was surprised to hear her challenge my description of Greenleaf: I’d called it “…a groundbreaking series that pulls back the veil on organized religion.” Just as her character, Charity, would have done, Winans checked me on that — and she checked me good!
“I think it’s more than that,” Winans explained. “I think the church has been the backdrop, but what has been SO amazing to me is that we’ve seen a beautiful black family that is flawed in so many ways, and yet they truly love God. With Greenleaf, we have been able to see real human people who show you it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been or what you have done, YOU ARE WELCOME in the house of the Lord.”
“For so long, it has felt like you had to have been a certain kind of good to walk into church or even feel like you can pray. Our show has broken that barrier. No matter what the Greenleafs have done, they always find their way back to the foundation and they trust that God will receive them — no matter what!”
The actress has repeated, over the series’ entire run, that she loves Charity. I wondered why she loves her so much.
“I love her so much because she is REAL,” Winans said. “She is someone that so many women can see themselves in. A lot of times women feel invisible and unheard, and Charity is all of that. She is clumsy. She is emotional. She makes mistakes, but what is so great about her is that she gets back up.”
“Charity shows other women like her that your mistake is not your future. She will not be held hostage to her past — and neither should they.”
In the season four finale, Charity received a shocker! (I won’t spoil it for those who are catching up via Netflix…but get on it!). As the cast has already completed filming the final season, I wondered whether Winans was happy with where the series’ writers leave Charity.
“I LOVE the way Charity winds up,” Winans exclaimed. “She is a woman who has gone through many things, some of which she created on her own, and now she has to find her way. There’s one thing I particularly love about Charity: she will not be deterred by ANYTHING!”
I have to agree with Winans on that. In the actress’ riveting portrayal of Charity, fans of been treated to a character who follows in the footsteps of some of prime time soap’s favorites. Like JR Ewing and Alexis Carrington, Charity Greenleaf is a woman we love to hate!
As such, Charity would be the perfect focal point for the Greenleaf spinoff series that’s been promised. But clearly, Winans must have gotten ahold of her bible before answering my question about it:
…a time to be silent and a time to speak – Ecclesiastes 3:7
“I have NOTHING to tell because I know NOTHING,” Winans laughed. “I guess we will have to see how the final season of Greenleaf shakes out and what the fans may or may not want to see! I’m not sure when we will know. The series creator, Craig Wright, has said he sees the spinoff as the women rising…but again, we don’t know anything! We shall see!”
As we wrapped up, Winans shocked me by giving me the scoop on her first post-Greenleaf project. When I first chatted with her three years ago, the actress detailed her journey to establish herself as an actress, and insisted that she never had a desire to pursue the family business.
Maybe sometime around the time she duetted with Patti LaBelle, Winans changed her mind about that. Winans is releasing a new single this week!
“It’s called ‘I Won’t Stop Breathing,’ Winans shared. “I took my demo of it and put it to a visual that I asked my husband to make. During this time of so much civil unrest, I was hurting deeply as I’m sure everyone else was and is. After days of simply crying, I wanted to activate my voice. This song came to mind, and I felt so inspired to make a visual that I didn’t even get the song mixed.”
“Once I released the visual, I got calls from radio stations asking for the song, and I was like ‘Welp — I guess I am releasing some music!’ I also have two short films coming up on A Space For Creators, which is TV One’s digital platform.”
“Honestly, I’m trusting God that He will continue to work things out in magnificent ways.”
This writer would count on that if I were you, Miss Winans. In fact, that’s as certain as Greenleaf’s season five being spectacular!