‘Greenleaf’ star Kim Hawthorne is lighting up the show as Kerissa Greenleaf, but for the actress the OWN drama is a break she’s deserved awhile now.
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Kim Hawthorne’s Greenleaf character, Kerissa Greenleaf, is a strong personality. But maybe that’s fitting because she’s played by an actress who has paid her dues and earned her way up the TV ladder to finally reach center stage.
Kim spoke to Hidden Remote recently about her hard-working journey and whether or not she agrees with the official characterization of Kerissa as “ambitious and controlling”.
“I think she’s a self-made, hardworking mother of two, focused, business-oriented. She doesn’t like things to be out of her control,” Kim explained of her character. “What are her ambitions? What is she trying to control? You can pick those words and perhaps come up with a negative connotation. Especially in our society, for a woman to be ambitious and controlling, that’s a negative.
“Whereas me as a person, I don’t think that’s negative. If I wasn’t ambitious and controlling to a certain extent, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she continued. “I’m not a very passive person in that way. I take the bull by the horns and make a plan and go for it. So I think [Kerissa]’s ambitious but it’s for the betterment of her family, the legacy of her kids.
“She wants her husband to find his place in the world, because he hasn’t. They’ve been under the wing of this megachurch family and he’s like Mama’s boy. So he really hasn’t been able to spread his wings and find out what he’s really good at.
“Nothing great has been expected of him, therefore he hasn’t had the opportunity to rise to anything. And [Kerissa is] the one sitting back and going you know you can do whatever you put your mind to. So I think her ambitions are for the betterment of her family unit.”
Another thing Kim believes is adding pressure to Kerissa’s relationship with husband Jacob (Lamman Rucker) is that they’re literally in the same house with the rest of the Greenleaf family.
“You have four women living in one house and Lady Mae [played by Lynn Whitfield] is the head hen,” she added. “Everybody else is kind of navigating in a house with their families, under this huge what I think is a controlling wing where they have certain expectations.
“I’ve been married twice and I can tell you this right now, no one wants their mother in law all up in their business. Especially if you’re a woman and you have your own mind. You don’t want to live under someone else’s rules when you’re grown and have your own career and your own kids.
“So that’s a part of challenge for them, for their marriage and the dynamic of the whole family unit. I think Kerissa’s just fed up with having to stay in line; she’s at her wit’s end and her husband isn’t being faithful. When we come into their characters, you’re getting dropped in right at the height of something that’s ready to blow up.”
“I will say the writers and directors on the show are incredible and that they’ve really given my character a lot to work with,” Kim continued. “She’s not one-dimensional; she has depth and I think with every episode you’re going to see a different facet of her.
“I’m just tickled because the fans either love me or hate me,” she added, “but then as the episodes progress the ones that were die-hard ‘I can’t stand your character’ are now like ‘I’m starting to feel sorry for Carissa.’ I know where it’s going, so I can’t wait to see where the fans are concerning her by the 13th episode.”
Greenleaf is also an important milestone for Kim personally. She’s been acting on stage and screen for decades, and Greenleaf represents her first series regular role since co-starring in Louis C.K.’s Lucky Louie back in 2006. She was thrilled to have the opportunity.
“This is my chosen profession and I’ve been doing it consistently for 30 years and this was the proverbial Hollywood is calling,” she recalled. “It was a real show with real writers and real producers and Oprah [Winfrey] is like the cream of the crop. I don’t know anyone that would turn down an opportunity like this.”
She’s one of those hard workers who has appeared across our TV screens for years, in shows like Rake (where she was the wife of Damon Gupton’s Mayor Barzmann), The Young and the Restless, Da Vinci’s Inquest (earning a Leo Award nomination for her part as Det. Rose Williams), and Jeremiah. It’s good to see her getting to be a regular somewhere else again and with a role as meaty as that of Kerissa Greenleaf.
When she’s not acting, Kim is spending time with her children and also aiming to make fortunes better for other women. She works extensively with the organization Safe Passage, which helps victims of domestic violence and their families. Readers can get more information on how to get involved here. Kim also has a beautiful jewelry line, which you can check out here.
She also wants everyone to know that it’s never too late to achieve what you want or what you’ve earned – her role on Greenleaf being proof of that.
“I would just like to say coming from someone who has had a dream since the age of eight and pursued it steadily over the course of thirty to forty years,” she told us, “No matter what your dream is? Just stay the course, ride the waves and know that if the dream is in your heart that it, in my opinion, is meant to materialize. But it can only materialize if you stay the course.”
Greenleaf airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on OWN.