?Greenleaf? New to Oprah?s Lineup of Quality, Black Programming

Oprah Winfrey Last night, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) debuted ?Greenleaf,? a new original one-hour drama series starring Winfrey herself, Merle Dandridge (?The Night Shift?), Lamman Rucker (?Meet the Browns?) and Emmy award-winning actors Lynn Whitfield (?The Josephine Baker Story?) and Keith David (?Community?), among others. Created by Emmy-nominated writer/producer Craig Wright, it?s the newest show in a list of shows that have been sending the network?s ratings through the roof.

The network debuted in 2011 and is available in 85 million homes.

?We?re so excited about Greenleaf and we?re glad you are too. This marks a new day for me, producing a scripted platform series. And we?re excited to do it around the African American church, where I grew up… I love the idea of using OWN as a platform for storytelling, for telling stories about people of color, stories of diversity that allow us to be real and show humanness to a society where people don?t see you as human. To see the connection and growth within a family is important,? Winfrey said at a press event for the show.??

At the exclusive screening event held last month in NYC, guests and members of the media were treated to a first look at the premiere episode of ?Greenleaf? followed by a Q&A session featuring the show?s writers, producers and cast members.???

?Greenleaf? tells the story of the religious Greenleaf family who are devout members and leaders of the Memphis mega church Calvary Fellowship World Ministries. When estranged daughter Grace Greenleaf returns home from the big city, it becomes clear that the family is hiding a host of secrets and lies possibly dating back some 20 years.?

?Grace has come back for justice. Just when Grace is about to go too far, Dad tells Grace not to pull things up from the roots and instead, tell the truth in the right order. That is the argument. Church is massively important, but does that mean it can?t be critiqued?? Wright said during the Q&A.??????

?We wanted to protect what?s beautiful about the church and what?s not so beautiful about it,? added Erika Anderson, one of the writers.????????

The debut of “Greenleaf” also marks Winfrey?s return to acting on television; she stars as Mavis McCready. And what a joy to see veteran actors Whitfield and David again. They star as husband and wife Lady Mae Greenleaf and Bishop James Greenleaf.??

Distributed by Lionsgate, episode two of ?Greenleaf? will air tonight at 10 p.m. on OWN and beginning next week, the series will regularly air on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT for the remainder of its 13-episode first season.??