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Lynn Whitfield      

Actress & Star of OWN's "Greenleaf"

Lynn Whitfield, one of the most respected members of the African American acting community, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The first of four children of a dentist-composer father and a housing executive mother, Whitfield credits watching classic movies on television with her late maternal grandmother as an inspiration for her enduring career as a memorable storyteller on multiple platforms.

Today, the Emmy Award-winning actress is well known for the authenticity she brings to her portrayal of women from all walks of life, including her recent tour de force as Lady Mae, the church matriarch-diva in the hit OWN drama, Greenleaf (2016-2020), for which she received the 2017 Gracie Award and two NAACP Image Award wins.

Whitfield is a third generation graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she received a B.F.A. in Theatre and later a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. While training at Howard, she gained stage experience with the D.C. Black Repertory Company and joined the Negro Ensemble Company in New York after graduation. Whitfield’s first national exposure came with her standout performance in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" on PBS.

Hollywood took notice and Whitfield was signed to Columbia Pictures, making her big-screen debut in Doctor Detroit(1982), The Slugger’s Wife and Silverado (both 1985), followed by televised movies, The George McKenna Story and Johnnie Mae Gibson: FBI (both CBS, 1986) and the acclaimed Oprah Winfrey-produced miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place (ABC, 1989).Whitfield vaulted to international fame in the HBO biopic The Josephine Baker Story (1991), portraying the legendary Paris-based entertainer, French Resistance and Civil Rights fighter. She earned an Emmy Award as “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special or Miniseries,” giving her "the greatest sense of accomplishment and realization of my vision,” she says. But she is proudest of her role as mother to Grace, her actor-musician daughter with former husband, the late Josephine Baker director Brian Gibson.

Returning to the big screen as the unforgettable Brandi in Martin Lawrence’s popular urban revenge saga, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), Whitfield went on to score critical success as the beleaguered wife of Samuel L. Jackson in Eve's Bayou (1997), the story of a prominent black Louisiana family filmed near New Orleans. She returned to a similar dramatic milieu in the ABC miniseries, The Wedding (1998), also executive produced by Winfrey. More recently, she was seen on How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, 2015-16) and Oprah’s Master Class (OWN, 2017).

Whitfield has won seven NAACP Image Awards for her work in film and television, including Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story(2004) co-starring Jamie Foxx. She attracted a new generation of fans in two of the Disney Channel's highest rated movies, The Cheetah Girls (2003)and The Cheetah Girls 2(2006). Other select feature film roles include the Chris Rock vehicle, Head of State (2003); Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion (2006); Mama I Want To Sing(2008),a remake of the off-Broadway musical; Kings of the Evening (2008); The Rebound (2010); Things Fall Apart (2011), produced by and co-starring rapper 50 Cent; The Last Letter (2013) opposite Omari Hardwick and Sharon Leal, Kings Faith (2013); Curveball (2015); and Nappily Ever After (2018) with Sanaa Lathan.

Whitfield divides her time between Atlanta, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

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