Interview: 'Greenleaf's Deborah Joy Winans
It has been a whirlwind season thus far for the Greenleaf family and their sprawling Memphis megachurch, Calvary. The return of their eldest daughter Grace (Merle Dandridge) last year, turned their world upside down, so much so that the Greenleaf family tree split at the root. Jacob (Lamman Rucker) left the fold to begin his new career with long-time rival church Triumph, while Grace has been steadfast in her desire to seek vengeance against her Uncle Mac (GregAlan Williams). And yet, more than any other character this season, the youngest Greenleaf sibling, Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee has had to find her footing. With the loss of a baby and her marriage coming to a screeching halt, Charity has had to find her inner strength and truly blossom this season. Determined to step into her own, she’s had to make some extremely tough decisions while forging a new path for herself. Recently, I spoke with Deborah Joy Winans who plays Charity about her character's stunning arc. We discussed her character's choices, Winans' apprehension towards singing, that insane mid-season finale and where we’ll find the newly-single Charity once "Greenleaf" returns this summer.
Aramide Tinubu: Let’s talk about the origins of “Greenleaf.” What was that like getting the call that you booked the series?
Deborah Joy Winans: Oh my goodness! I received the call that I got the part while I was walking from Trader Joe's on Vine, between Sunset and Hollywood. I literally was in the middle of the street crying my eyes out. Anytime you've worked so hard for something, and you set a high goal, and then for something to come through in that sort of way, it does something for your soul. I was in tears. My brother, my sister and my husband were there. We just hollered in the street. We danced. We did it all.
AT: How wonderful! Knowing who you family is and your background with gospel music, were you at all apprehensive about "Greenleaf's" subject matter since there are so many different layers to the story surrounding the Black church?
DJW: I think that I knew that I was supposed to do it because of how everything came about. I think anytime we talk about church or talk about people's faith or talk about anything that may seem taboo, everyone is apprehensive. I think everybody is sort of, "How far do we go, how much do we pull back?" There is always a constant checking and re-checking. There is a “What do we write? How does this work?” My hat goes off to the writers for being able to find all these nuances and all of these layered stories for these characters, that the audience can relate to. And, they can also feel the drama that is TV. They can read between the lines. I think that we all care so much about how people receive that we work hard to make sure it comes across as sincere and true and authentic.
AT: Though Charity is a singer, and your family is so huge in the singing world, I read that you have never been passionate about it. Have you grown more fond of singing because of your character or is acting your true passion?
DJW: Oh yeah, I've never loved singing. (Laughing) I have never loved it; I never wanted to do it. I love my family, I love their music, I'm a total fan, but singing was never anything that I loved to do. Acting has been my goal since I was a child. My parents would take us to double feature movies on the weekends, and I would just point at the screen and tell them that that's what I wanted to do. That's what I pursued, I went to college, and I got my BFA at Wayne State University in Detroit where I'm from, “313 stand up!” (Laughing) Then I moved to LA, got my MFA from Cal Arts and just continued to pursue it. There were a lot of times where it seemed like it wouldn't happen or it couldn't happen, a lot of times where I had doubt and wondered, "God is this where you've called me to be?" But, once you prepare, you work hard, and then you surrender the rest to God. I think once I got to that point of surrendering the rest to God and I said: "Look, if this is what you want me to do God, I feel like I've done my part, you have to open the door." That's what he did.