COVER-Oprah-Winfrey-Greenleaf

*Oprah Winfrey says she already knows negative comments will follow her new series “Greenleaf,” a megachurch-set drama premiering next month on OWN.

The predominantly African American cast portrays characters who fall short of the Christian principles they claim to uphold. The first episode touches on a number of church issues that have made headlines in recent years – from sexual abuse allegations, to preferential tax exemptions, to prosperity ministries to good ol’ fashioned infidelity.

At a screening of the first episode Wednesday at West Hollywood’s Soho House, Winfrey said she’s prepared for possible pushback from the black church.

“All my life I have been trying to use ‘the word,’ and words, as a way of saying to the audience … whatever the audience was, the [“O”] magazine, or “The Oprah Show,” and now OWN, to say: ‘Here is a way to look at yourself, and can you see you in this picture? Here is a way out, here is a way up, here is a way through,'” said Winfrey, according to The Wrap. “This is just another platform [TV drama] to able to do that, in a really collaborative way.”

Lynn Whitfield in "Greenleaf" (OWN)

Lynn Whitfield in “Greenleaf” (OWN)

“Greenleaf” is centered on a feuding family that runs a corporate mega-church in Memphis, Tennessee. …The villainous pastor patriarch, played by Keith David, does not always practice what he preaches.

Winfrey said she warned her good friend Bishop T.D. Jakes about David’s character, Bishop James Greenleaf.

“The only resemblance is that our main character is named ‘Bishop’ and your name is ‘Bishop,’” Winfrey recalled assuring Jakes on a preemptive phone call.

“From my lips to your ears, ‘I, Oprah Winfrey, am not going to do anything that disrespects the church,” Winfrey says she told the pastor. “I am sitting where I am today because of the black church.”
Jakes, who has a syndicated talk show arriving this fall, answered Winfrey: “Send me a tape.”

“Greenleaf” premieres Tuesday, June 21 at 10 p.m. on OWN before beginning its regular Wednesdays at 10 p.m. time slot.

Watch the latest trailer below: