Lynn Whitfield Gets Candid About ‘Greenleaf’ and the Role That Changed Her Life

Lynn Whitfied on Uncensored. (Credit: TV One)

Lynn Whitfield has been a constant presence in Hollywood for decades, but there was one role that helped solidify her career.

The award-winning actress sat down for a candid conversation with TV One’s autobiographical series Uncensored. In the interview, Whitfield discussed her role in the 1991 TV movie The Josephine Baker Story about trailblazing actress and civil rights activist Josephine Baker.

Whitfield told Uncensored she initially lost out on the coveted role.

“My agents called and said, ‘It’s over. Diahann Carroll is going to do the older Josephine and Irene Cara is going to do the younger Josephine,'” Whitfield recalled.

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She went to a bar in Los Angeles and cried over losing the role. Three months later, she got a phone call saying there had been a change of plans.

“I went back, did a seven or eight hour screen test, and the next morning they said I had the job!” she explained.

The role turned out to be a career defining opportunity for the actress.

“It was the best experience, creative experience, because there just aren’t many, many movies that have a woman in almost every frame of a film, which means you carry the film,” she explained. “It was a blessing.”

Whitfield won an lead actress in a miniseries or a special Emmy Award for her performance in the film.

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Over the course of her 40 year career, she has appeared in more than 100 films and television shows including A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, The Women of Brewster Place, Madea’s Family Reunion, and The Cheetah Girls. Whitfield most recently starred in the OWN series Greenleaf, which ended its run in 2020. She won three NAACP Image Awards for her role as Lady Mae.

Whitfield was raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and her family introduced her to the arts at a young age. She attended Howard University, and later moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.

Uncensored: Lynn Whitfield was directed by Kristen Walter and Phil Thornton. The episode airs Sunday, Oct. 10 at 10pm/9C on TV One

Watch the preview video below.