Fans of the OWN faith-based drama Greenleaf were outraged when the network announced that the show was ending after five successful seasons. The show's ending came as a major surprise to fans, especially due to having relatively consistent high ratings throughout its run. News of the cancellation came in May 2020. The star-studded cast included Kim Hawthorne, Lamman Rucker and Deborah Joy Winans, Oprah Winfrey, Lynn Whitfield, Merle Dandridge, Keith David, Desiree Ross, Lovie Simone, Tye White, and Gregory Alan Williams. But the story might not be over just yet.
The series, which premiered in 2016, followed the return of Grace Greenleaf (Dandridge) who returns to her hometown of Tennessee after her youngest sister dies by suicide. The Greenleaf family operates a megachurch. Grace's return is not met with much excitement. She makes it her mission to unveil family secrets and corruption within the church and her town.
According to TV Line, the decision to end the show was due to a decrease in ratings. The show maintained an average of 1.1 million viewers and remained the number one scripted series on cable television among Black viewers, but ratings are said to have dropped 15 percent in season four as compared to season three. Throughout its run, the show earned 10 NAACP Image Award nominations, including wins for Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama (for Lynn Whitfield) – the latter for two consecutive years. Shortly after the cancellation was made public, the network announced that a spinoff centered around Whitfield's character was coming. Producer Craig Wright gave TV Line a little tease to what viewers can expect.
"If you are sitting around waiting to hear Lady Mae preach again or waiting to hear Lady Mae tell Charity to put on her big girl pants and get her act together, well, we are working overtime to get you that story," she said. "Lynn is an amazing talent, and I am excited about the prospect of being able to work with her again. That character has meant so much to so many people and so much more than any of us could've guessed…I think looking back, you realize Greenleaf is a machine designed to put Lady Mae at the head of that church. That's what it was. We just got to that part at the end of Greenleaf."
Whitfield told Bevy Smith during her Bevelations podcast that the spinoff was greenlit due to the overwhelming disappointment from fans that OWN canceled Greenleaf. "I don't think they [the network] even know what it is, you know?" Whitfield said. "I think they are figuring it out. I think the cry from the fans that they hadn't had enough [is what drove a spinoff]."
She also explained that consumers are thirsty for content of substance and good quality, especially in the era of reality television. "I think they [the network] are realizing that this world is so provocative, and it's such important subject matter to all audiences — because it's [Greenleaf] is universal in that you always have to take a second look at power," Whitfield added. "You need to evaluate who you are following, and we all need to understand that following any man can bring disappointment of some sorts."