OWN tonight (March 9) launches its new original series Delilah, from Greenleaf creator Craig Wright. The series stars Maahra Hill (Black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder) as Delilah Connolly, a, highly-principled lawyer raising two kids alone while seeking justice for those who need it most, according to OWN. The series also stars Jill Marie Jones, Connolly’s courtroom antagonist who also happens to be her best friend.
“It means everything to me to be able to represent someone who's as empowered and strong-minded and has such a strong moral compass,” Hill said last month during OWN’s Television Critics Association Winter tour presentation. “I think she reflects Black women and Black America in ways that we haven't seen on a consistent basis.”
OWN is hoping Delilah has similar success with African-American women viewers as Greenleaf, which finished its five-season run in 2020 as the most watched show within the demographic.
I spoke to Wright -- who along with Greenleaf has written for such shows as Six Feet Under, Lost and Dirty Sexy Money -- about his inspiration behind Delilah as well as how it fits within the OWN brand. Wright also discusses the success of Greenleaf as well as the show’s upcoming spinoff series. Here’s an edited excerpt from our conversation.
Picture This: How does Delilah differ from other shows you have produced?
Craig Wright: It's a more realistic show, much, much less like Greenleaf, which I always thought of as a bit of a fable. I think the show more than anything I've done really required me to depend on all my partners, even more for making sure that we were capturing the real world correctly.
PT: Do you think Delilah can appeal to a similar audience that watched Greenleaf?
CW: I hope so. With everything I work on, I hope to present some real moments of life that maybe you won't see on other TV shows. I feel like TV as an art form sometimes can be very subtly, insulting to the viewers in the way that it divides the world into the people on TV and the people not on TV. So I really think that television owes it to the viewers to give back to them moments of their own lives so that it becomes more of an equal playing field. Delilah probably more than any show I've ever worked on is hopefully full of lived moments that are going to make viewers say, ‘that's just like what happened to me,’ or ‘that's just like my sister, that's just like my friend.’
PT: What’s the message that you want to convey to viewers with Delilah?
CW: I think the message of the show is that Black women are literally holding the world together for all of us. Holding it together in their families, holding it together in the workplace, holding it together in the political life of the nation. And the message is that we see it, we honor it, and we're grateful for it.
PT: What was your inspiration for the show?
CW: My inspiration for practically everything I do at this point in my life is from conversations with Oprah Winfrey. Everything starts and ends for me with Oprah. So after Greenleaf we started to talk and ask what we wanted to do next, and we decided we wanted to go broader in scope than just the church. We had talks about the OWN viewer and also about the people that were connecting with Greenleaf on Netflix and other outlets and asked what would those viewers want to see next. So we just gradually came up with this idea of a woman who is moving through so many different things in her life and making it work. It was really a desire after five years of wanting to give that Greenleaf audience an image of themselves right back at them.
PT: Were you surprised at how popular Greenleaf had become over its five-season run?
CW: Yes I was, but more than surprised I was just grateful. Oprah talks a lot about intention and, and when your intention is clear, it makes it a lot easier to do the work. Our intention with Greenleaf was to start a conversation about the black church and from the way the audience came along, obviously that was the conversation that was waiting to happen. As I start work on the spinoff, I'm so excited to get back to Lady Mae because I think her voice is one of the most prominent facets of the Greenleaf universe. We got a little taste of it near the end of the show where she starts to preach, and we start to see what she has to say. I'm just so excited to begin to tell the next chapter of that story where we can see Lady Mae placed in that position of power she was always destined to be in.
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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