Who said small town girls can’t make it big?
Desiree Ross, a South Carolina-bred actress, is swiftly weaving her way through the world of television. After working on projects like Lifetime’s A Country Christmas Story (with Dolly Parton), TNT’s Falling Skies, and almost signing a contract to join forces with Nickelodeon, Ross wisely transitioned her career with the help of Oprah Winfrey recognizing her potential. Now, she has a starring role on the successful OWN series, Greenleaf.
Greenleaf is unlike your typical family drama series. This OWN show tells the story of a family-led Memphis megachurch and all the secrets the lie heavily within it. Rivalry, adultery, and much more come to play in testing the Greenleaf family’s Christian faith.
If you missed Greenleaf during its first season, don’t fret: Netflix has added the show to their collection and it’s been available for streaming since March 3. Therefore, viewers will have just enough time to catch up before the season two premiere date later this week.
Greenleaf returns for its second season Wednesday March 15 at 10 PM EST on OWN. Check out our exclusive Q&A with Desiree Ross where she’s spilling all on what to expect and what it was like working directly with Oprah!
CS: For those who aren’t familiar with Greenleaf, what can you tell us about the show and your role on it?
DR: “Greenleaf is a show about a black family who runs a mega-church full of scandal–my character is Sophia Greenleaf. She’s basically the prodigal’s daughter’s daughter. Her and her mom move from Phoenix to Memphis, and they end up living in Memphis with her family in this huge mansion. She kind of starts exploring her faith–she wasn’t really Christian when she arrived in Memphis. She ends up having what I consider the most pure faith out of everybody in the family and she really starts to have more of an active role in the church.”
CS: This show uniquely tells the story of fresh concept that isn’t typically explored on television. What makes this show special to you?
DR: “It’s my first series regular role, so that was super exciting! I get to Oprah–she plays my aunt. To me, I think it’s the whole family dynamic and we touch on a lot of real kind of stories, things that people actually deal with in real life. It is TV, so it is a little bit exaggerated. You might not go into anyone else’s home and find all of the problems that you would find in the Greenleaf home because it is a TV show. We just touch in a lot of realistic issues like homosexuality especially within the church, dealing with getting acceptance from your parents, dealing with siblings, dealing with revenge, dealing with having false idols like money. There’s just stuff like that that goes on [and] stuff you’d see in your everyday life–I really like that, especially watching the relationships with all the different family members and how they evolve. All of that stuff makes it special to me. A lot of people have told me how they really love our show because it touches on such realistic ideas. I think that’s what’s really special [about it] because some TV shows are all out for dramas and viewers, [but] I think our show is about something more than that.”
CS: Would you say that you have any personal connections or parallels to your character on the show? If so, what would they be?
DR: “Sophia is basically me! I think me and her are very alike. Well, she’s a little bit younger than I am. On set, they call me like “Dee”, or at least my wardrobe designer [does]. She calls me the “little Evangelist” because I’m always inviting people to church and stuff with me every weekend. Me and Sophia are kind of like the same as people, but just going through different experience. It’s kind of funny whenever I’m at work or when I’m reading a script, and [I] see what I’m going to have to do and trying to figure out how I’m going to step into Sophia’s shoes, and how I’m going to put myself in her situation. As far as personality goes, we are basically the same.”
CS: You had mentioned earlier that Oprah plays your aunt on the show. How was it like working with Oprah and the rest of the cast?
DR: “I was really excited when I first got this [role] because I knew that i was going to learn so much from working with Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Merle, Marley, Deborah Joy, Tye–everybody. A lot of these people are people I’ve seen a lot or I’ve looked up to since I was little. Even Greg Alan (Greg Alan Williams), Greg Alan was my acting coach when I was younger and now he’s playing my uncle on the show. I thought it was crazy because when we were filming our first episode for the first season, I saw him at the table talking and I was like, “Greg Alan! Oh my gosh, do you remember me? I’m Desiree–you coached me when I was starting acting.” We had this moment and it was crazy! I was just so excited to work with everybody, like Keith and them are so funny–they’re hysterical to work with. From watching them or doing a scene with them, I can learn so much just about a subtle eye movement. They just make everything really fun and Merle is great, I have a lot of scenes with her. She’s a goofball, but I love her so much–she’s so hardworking. Then there’s Oprah, the one everyone wants to know about. She’s exactly like how you see her on TV. She’s very profound in everything that she says [and] everything she does has a lot of meaning to it. Then, when you’re with her or at least for me, she almost has this mother-like feel to her. I’ll walk into a room and she immediately calls attention to my presence. She wants everybody to know that when you’re talking to her, she’s there for you–she just makes everybody feel really loved. The first couple of times of being with her, you feel like you know her really well even if you haven’t had super deep, long conversations with her and you’re not with her everyday–you just feel like you know her. She’s super caring, super sweet, very personable, and super talented–I love when she’s on set. Every single take, it just gets better and better and better. I love it, i love working with her and I have her to thank for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I’m so grateful!”
CS: Would you say that you have any favorite on-set memories or stand out moments from working on the show?
DR: “This season there is some stuff that is very standout-ish, but I don’t know if I can say anything about it yet. In one of our episodes, I got to hold a baby lamb that was three weeks old–his name was Lambert. He was chewing on my shirt and hair, he was the cutest. People have to look out for him on season two! [On] the first episode of season, we had a really long dinner scene and it was a thirteen page scene. Usually, we might film eight pages in one day and we had to do this thirteen page scene in one day. We had just met each other, we had only met each other the night before at dinner. The next day, we had to go in and act like we all knew everything that was going on and we had this long history of each other. By the end of [filming] the scene, me and Lovie [Simone]–who plays my cousin on the show–knew everybody’s lines. We were basically mimicking their characters and people were laughing at us.”
CS: Since we are Celeb Secrets, are there any secrets you’d like to dish about this upcoming season?
DR: “There is definitely a lot of stuff going on this season. You’re going to want to watch to see certain relationships. You’ll want to see what happens with Charity and Kevin because of season one. You don’t really know what’s going to happen with their marriage because he just came out as being gay, he has a wife–he hasn’t even officially said he’s gay, but that he has feelings for guys. His wife is about to have babies, twins actually. That’s something to look forward to seeing an how that comes together in season two. Mac randomly gets out of jail at the end of season one and see what goes down with the Bishop and the crime he committed. There’s a lot to look forward to in season two! You’ll wanna see how Sophia’s evolved within in the church…I don’t know, there’s just so much stuff! I think a lot of great stuff happens in episode eight.”
CS: Lastly, are there any other projects that you’re working on outside of Greenleaf that we can look forward to seeing you in?
DR: “Right now, I’m only working on Greenleaf because it kind of takes up all of my time. I’m graduating high school this year right when we finish filming. There’s a couple of things that I’m supposed to be working on, but we haven’t even filmed them yet. There’s a movie that I think I’m going to be working on about Emmett Till. There’s just some different stuff that’s kind of been up in the air, stuff that I’ve been asked to do, but they’re trying to figure out scheduling and when it’s best for me to film it. So, who knows? We’re going to see. Hopefully this summer I’ll be able to do some more work.”