OWN is continuing its scripted expansion.
The Oprah Winfrey– and Discovery-owned cable network has handed out a straight-to-series order for megachurch drama Greenleaf, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The 13-episode series hails from Lionsgate Television and Craig Wright (Six Feet Under, Lost, Tyrant) and centers on the unscrupulous world of the Greenleaf family and their sprawling Memphis megachurch, where scandalous secrets and lies are as numerous as the faithful.
Greenleaf is described as the center of the community for the thousands of predominantly African-American members who attend services there. But beneath its steeple lies a den of iniquity — greed, adultery, sibling rivalry and conflicting values. The series is described as a multigenerational matrix of deception that involves the church’s founding family and extends to its congregation, prominent members of the Memphis community and beyond. Yet, amid the mayhem and deception, the power of something greater persists, calling everyone to conscience for their sins.
Wright, a graduate of the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and a former minister, will pen the scripts and executive produce alongside Winfrey.
“To tell this potentially explosive story with Oprah, a partner who has as much respect and affection for the church as I do, whose entire body of work is infused with what I would call a faith-based humanism, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A blessing, even,” Wright said.
Greenleaf comes as OWN has made original scripted programming a high priority. Winfrey told The Hollywood Reporter in December that her top priority at the network was “developing more scripted programming and eventually projects that I could appear in.” (It’s unclear if Winfrey will appear onscreen in Greenleaf.) The cabler in February ordered Queen Sugar, a drama that reteams Selma‘s Ava DuVernay with Winfrey, who will appear in a recurring role.
Greenleaf marks OWN’s second original scripted series that doesn’t come from Tyler Perry. Until Queen Sugar, OWN’s scripted slate consisted exclusively of Perry-produced entries The Haves and the Have Nots, If Loving You Is Wrong, Love Thy Neighbor and For Better or Worse. The net also has picked up telepics and miniseries, including Tulsa.
“When I first read the script, I instantly felt an affinity for the characters and loved Craig’s creative vision for a fictional drama on an epic scale,” Winfrey said. “This show is going to be a fun ride and will hopefully have viewers on the edge of their pews week after week.”
For Lionsgate, Greenleaf becomes its latest scripted original and joins a roster of programming that includes E!’s The Royals, WGN America’s Manhattan, ABC’s Nashville and Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. The company recently bid farewell to AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.
“With its singular take on a world rarely seen and a fascinating family at its core, Greenleaf has all the makings of a highly addictive drama that embodies the kind of provocative, high-quality entertainment we champion at Lionsgate,” Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Beggs said. “We’re thrilled to be working with Oprah and Craig and proud to be part of OWN’s expansion in scripted programming.”
WME, which represents Winfrey and Wright, brokered the deal. Production will begin later this year.