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'Greenleaf' vs. 'Queen Sugar'

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about various topics including celebrities and entertainment.


Many viewers watch either Greenleaf or Queen Sugar. Some viewers watch both series. However, some people say they favor one over the other even though both series have a lot in common.

Greenleaf and Queen Sugar were the first two scripted series acquired by OWN that were not produced by Tyler Perry. Oprah Winfrey is one of the executive producers of both series.

Both series premiered on OWN just months apart in 2016. They bring pleasure to many viewers. So, how are they alike and how are they different?


Greenleaf is the older of the two series but only by a few months. It was released on OWN on June 21, 2016. Queen Sugar was released on the same network on September 6, 2016.

Unlike Queen Sugar, Greenleaf is not based on a novel. The drama series was created by Craig Wright and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey who also starred in the earlier episodes.

The story follows the Greenleaf family and their relationship with one another in the mansion where they all live. The plot is also about their involvement in a Memphis megachurch where most of the family members serve.

The main characters are veterans actors and more familiar to the viewing audience than the actors in the Queen Sugar series. The patriarch and matriarch of the Greenleaf family include Bishop James Greenleaf, played by Keith David, and Lady Mae Greenleaf, played by Lynn Whitfield.

The oldest sibling Grace "Gigi" Greenleaf, played by Meryl Dandridge, is the estranged daughter who left home 20 years ago but has returned following the death of her younger sister, Faith.

The second sibling is Jacob Greenleaf, played by Lamman Rucker. He is the only son in the Greenleaf family. The youngest child is Charity Greenleaf, played by Deborah Joy Winans. She is in charge of music at the megachurch. Her role is so appropriate because she is part of the famous Winan musical family.

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Greenleaf is about secrets, lies, back-biting, power struggles, and greed. Not one of the family members is exempt from trouble that eventually involves the entire family. That's mainly because they all reside in the same place, eat at the same table and work in the same church.


'Queen Sugar'

Queen Sugar television drama series is not a new creation as Greenleaf is. This series is based on the 2014 Queen Sugar novel written by Natalie Baszile. She started writing her first book back in the 1990s. She worked on the manuscript for ten years before sending it to publishers in 2009 only to have it rejected. She took two more years to revise the book before resubmitting it.

It was published by Penguin on February 6, 2014. As soon as it was published, OWN negotiated a deal for the rights to turn the novel into a movie with her and Ava DuVernay as executive producers. DuVernay is the director of many episodes as well as other Black females. Two years after the novel was published, the movie premiered on September 6, 2016.

The uniqueness of Queen Sugar is that it is the first series that has all females directors of every one of the episodes. It also has an all African-American main cast. There are a few Caucasians in supporting roles as they relate to the African American characters in minor roles.


The television series follows closely to the story in the novel with the focus on three siblings. The two sisters and one brother have their own individuals issues, but things changed when their father dies and leaves behind an 800-acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana. At the time, Charley Bordelon, played by Dawn-Lyen Gardner, had a high profile job in Los Angeles and was going through a public divorce from her successful husband for cheating on her. She and her son Micah return to rural Louisiana to help manage the farm.

Nova Bordelon is the older sister, played by Rutina Wesley. She is a journalist and activist who cares more about her own work than about the sugarcane farm. The youngest sibling is Ralph Angel Bordelon, played by Kofi Siriboe. He is a single parent struggling with raising his son alone because the mother has a drug problem. Ralph Angel has his own problems because of his arrest record. He finds it hard to get a job. His only alternative is to work on the farm.

A positive theme in Queen Sugar is family dynamics. Even though the siblings have their own problems, they have a bond that keeps them together.

Series'Greenleaf''Queen Sugar'




Premiere Date

June 21, 2016

September 6, 2016

Executive Producers

Oprah Winfrey, Craig Wright, Clement Virgo

Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey







Will Return



Main Characters

3 siblings (2 females, 1 male)

3 siblings (2 females, 1 male)


Memphis, Tennessee megachurch

Louisiana sugarcane farm


Original creation not based on a novel

Based on "Queen Sugar" 2014 novel

Opening Scene

Estranged daughter returns home after 20 years

Oldest daughter returns home

Main Character's Child

Estranged daughter is a single parent with a teenage daughter

Estranged daughter is a single parent with a teenage son


More veterans actors: Lynn Whitfield, Keith David; Oprah appears in early episodes

Newcomers; Oprah doesn't appear


family problems, church problems, greed, money, power, secrets, lies, death

family problems, farm problems, secrets


2019 NAACP Image Award for Lynn Whitfield: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

2017 NAACP Image Award: Outstanding Drama Series; 2017 Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series for Ava DuVernay





1.0 million viewers

Beginning: 2.69 million; Ending 1.10 million

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