“Greenleaf” Star Merle Dandridge On Homosexuality In The Church, Revenge & Rick Fox

After a record breaking inaugural season, your favorite guilty pleasure, “Greenleaf” is back with more edge snatching plot twists and family secrets that will make you wish you could binge watch the entire season in one evening. With the tagline, “A Kingdom Divided”, season two finds show star Merle Dandridge in what she describes as “sitting in the collateral damage of consequence”. Without giving away too many juicy spoilers, Dandridge gives insight into the mindsets of some of the series most provocative characters which will help the audience to better understand their motives.

Zon D’Amour: In the premiere of season 2, the audience learns a shocking secret that Lady Mae is carrying regarding her own upbringing. As a viewer of the show and then as Grace Greenleaf, do you now have more empathy for Lady Mae’s behavior?

Merle Dandridge: Grace doesn’t know the ends and outs of the relationship that happened in that generation. She’s gotten a glimpse and she thinks she knows why there’s so much strive but Grace really has no idea how deep, how far or how twisted it is.

I think Grace has an understanding that the rigidness that Lady Mae might have sometimes is not necessarily about her, it’s about what Lady Mae is trying to protect and that Grace’s actions are a threat to that. I don’t think anything is ever revealed to Grace but what you get to see over the course of the season is an evolution of that relationship now that these things become uncovered and now that Lady Mae has to deal with it openly; these two grown women have to learn how to deal with each other. I think we all know that family dynamic where there’s that learned behavior as kids and that translates over to when you become an adult and that has to change. When two grown women live in the same house there’s always going to be a push-pull but ultimately, Lady Mae says in the season premiere, ‘we’re family’ and the ties of blood transcend so much.

(L-R) Merle Dandridge, Keith David, and Lynn Whitfield attend “Greenleaf” Season 2 Premiere Party at the W Atlanta Midtown.

ZD: In the previews of the show we see not only that Rick Fox’s character may have a major arc this season in writing about the Greenleaf drama, he and Grace also seem to form some type of relationship. Can his character be trusted?
MD: One of the things that attract Grace and Darius Nash (Rick Fox) to each other is their journalism background. Because of who they are and where they come from, they both have a desire to bring the truth to the light and to see things that are buried unearthed because there’s power in the pen. And he used his power to talk about the Greenleafs. Honestly if I weren’t a Greenleaf, I would talk about the Greenleafs; what’s going on over there? I don’t blame him for talking about the Grace’s family, he just does it with a sharper tone. When he finally comes into personal contact with the family, he has to face the things that he’s said about them. The thing about having someone with a like-mind, Grace has someone to talk to, an intellectual equal with whom she can hash things out. I think Grace has needed that since she’s come home and her life has been turned upside down. The career path she was on, she had to abandon it but here’s someone who knows about that particular passion that she has; based on that he’s someone that she wants to talk to but he’s also someone she shouldn’t talk to…!

ZD: What is your take on how the show is addressing homosexuality in the church?
MD: I love that we’re addressing it, period. I also love that we get to do it in the form of a narrative where you can see various perspectives on the subject. Because you have so many backgrounds with different beliefs, issues and fears; everyone comes at a ‘hot button’ topic like homosexuality in the church with a different set of baggage so they approach it differently. Everyone can find themselves within that spectrum of how people feel about it in the church and we can have a compassionate conversation about it.

ZD: In the premiere episode we see that the Greenleaf family has many more storylines beyond Grace’s return to town to avenge Faith’s death. What does justice look like for Grace this season?
MD: What I appreciate about where we’re going with this is, Grace was so single minded about getting Mac (actor GregAlan Williams) in season 1 that she didn’t stop to think before she jumped. In the second season she’s sitting in the collateral damage of consequence. It’s not just Mac that she’s hurting, she also hurt herself, her daughter and she’s damaging her family’s legacy. All of the other things that come with pulling that small thread, she wasn’t expecting for so much to unravel. There’s a lot of pain and personal reflection that comes with that and also Grace’s personal spiral. When does she cross that blurry line from justice to vengeance?

(L-R) Julian Brittano, Parnell Damone Marcanom, T.C. Carson, Jason Dirden, Clement Virgo, Gregory Alan Williams, Merle Dandridge, Desiree Ross, Keith David, Lovie Simone, Lynn Whitfield, Deborah Joy Winans, Kim Hawthorne, and Lamman Rucker attend “Greenleaf” Season 2 Premiere Party at W Atlanta Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photos by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

Don’t miss a moment of “Greenleaf” season 2 airing Wednesday nights at 10/9c on OWN.