“Reel It Back” is a new Shadow and Act series where we sit down with your favorite actors and actresses as they reflect on and react to memorable scenes and roles from their storied careers.
In our debut episode, acclaimed actress Lynn Whitfield dropped by the Shadow & Act offices in LA to discuss some of her most memorable scenes from her movie and television career, including “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” “The Cheetah Girls,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and of course, “Greenleaf.”
After being surprised by watching herself as her character Brandi Web tear Martin Lawrence’s Darnell Wright up in a fight scene in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Whitfield remarked that she might need to do an action movie.
“I didn’t remember it being so volatile, but it was fierce, though!” she said. “I remember feeling very warrior woman and very in charge and the thing about Thin Line was that I really felt I was doing an anthem for all women. I felt like sometimes our hearts are taken for granted…so I said, ‘you know what,’ we need to make this, like, really more edgy.”
She said Lawrence, who wrote and directed the film, encouraged her to do more.
“He said, ‘The further you go, the better it’s going to be to tell the tale of a broken heart,'” she said.
In The Cheetah Girls, Whitfield played Dorothea, the mother of Raven-Symoné’s character, aspiring singer Galleria. Whitfield said that the film came up during rough times in both her and Raven-Symoné’s lives.
“At that time, Raven herself was going through a lot as a young woman and I was going through a lot,” she said, referencing her divorce. She said the scene between her and Raven-Symoné talking as mother and daughter was “such a real exchange of respect,” something Raven-Symoné still remembers.
“When I see Raven to this day, she remembers and she’ll say, ‘This woman helped me through a really hard time and she really was my friend when we were on the set of Cheetah Girls.”
Her role as Victoria in Madea’s Family Reunion, Tyler Perry’s second feature film, was one in which she had to get into the mindset of a mother who tried to live out her dream life through her daughter Vanessa, played by Lisa Arrindell.
“Everything she wanted for herself, she lived it through her daughter. Everything she didn’t get, she wanted her daughter to pay for,” she said.
With regard to wanting a perfect life, the role is similar to the one Whitfield currently plays on Greenleaf, Lady Mae Greenleaf, a First Lady of a megachurch who believed her life was the perfect Christian fairytale until infidelity, family issues and Lady Mae’s own personal struggles complicated things.
“I was hoping to shine a mirror to the fact that leaders in our community can…have their own complexities and challenges and obstacles. They’re only human. I’m really excited about Lady Mae this season because the first two seasons I built this woman who was…living in what she thought was her own perfection…What we see in season three is a deconstruction of everything she thought her life was going to be.”
Greenleaf’s third season is currently airing on OWN and her latest film, Nappily Ever After is streaming on Netflix.