Lynn Whitfield. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso African News Agency (ANA)

Some people say, ‘behind every successful man, there's a woman’, and this is evident in the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)’s drama series "Greenleaf"'s leading Lady Mae, played by the legendary Lynn Whitfield.

Whitfield’s performance as the matriarch of the Greenleaf family takes centre stage as she brings to life the feisty, authoritative, unapologetic, strong-willed woman that Lady Mae is, the role which she is often praised and equally criticised for since the popular series launched in 2016.

Though "Greenleaf" is on its third season on pay TV, it has made its debut on Mzansi’s free to air e.tv in April and the show became an instant hit with local audiences.

With the second season ready to air in 2019, e.tv hosted Whitfield who chatted to us about her controversial role on her show and then some.

Lady Mae is in a constant conflict with her daughter Grace, played by Merle Dandridge, who after 20 years tries to unearth some of the darkest, deepest secrets, which has the potential to destroy the family.

But Lady Mae, will not allow anyone including her own daughter to ruin everything that she has worked hard for so many years.

"(Lady Mae) wanted her family to have the best of everything and she worked really hard over the years.... if someone was to come and try to ruin it all, of course, she’s going to protect herself, what would Queen Elizabeth do if someone said now we just going to rip the family apart? Lady Mae loves all of her children. She knows which one of her kids is going to challenge her," Whitfield said of her character. 

"After the storm has calmed down, the two women will find their way back into each other’s hearts, though the journey is a very long one."

The drama series takes viewers through a journey of self-discovery and forgiveness as the religious Greenleaf family takes twists and turns into different spheres of greed, lies, secrets, infidelity, adultery, malice, sibling rivalry, conflicts and sexual assault.

"Greenleaf tells the truths about some (not all) religious leaders who use their powers to take advantage of the poor. The series will open people’s eyes about what really goes on in the churches and this will also show the viewers that church people are also human, they make mistakes like all of us," she said.

With an acting career of nearly forty years, we asked Whitfield to share her secret to staying power and success in the industry.

"Love what you do, do it to the best of your ability, don't take any opportunity for granted, believe that any role that you're given, you can make something out of it...make the most of the moment. It's best to love it, find something you love doing and do it to the of your ability, and that will keep you in a happy place," she said.

Asked what do she does for fun: "I love music, I love to dance, I love to laugh and I love meeting new people and I love young people," she said in between chuckles.  

Lynn Whitfield. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso African News Agency (ANA)

Whitfield won Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Drama) at the Gracie Awards in 2017 and the show’s soundtrack won Outstanding Gospel/Christian Album at the NAACP image awards earlier this year.  

"Greenleaf" was created by Craig Wright, with Oprah Winfrey as the executive producer. Winfrey has a small role in the show too, which will blow viewers away.