DEBORAH JOY WINANS: GREENLEAF, THE WINANS LEGACY, & WHAT IT'S LIKE TO WORK WITH OPRAH
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
By Kristy Stanford
"If something doesn't challenge you there is no need to accept it. We should do things that will always challenge us, that's how we grow! That's how we get better as people in general.”
- Deborah Joy Winans
Deborah Joy Winans, who currently stars as Charity Greenleaf on the OWN Network hit series, Greenleaf, described the challenge of playing the youngest daughter of Bishop James (Keith David) and Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) as " ... a privilege that I do not take lightly. I've learned so much from everyone and we are truly family! ... I just love that we all love each other in a very genuine way and the work has really become great as a result of that! We're all continuously growing together and it's lovely!
Deborah Joy lent her acting abilities to the portrayal of the mega church's Minister of Music in the series but, she also lent her vocals to record and perform on the Greenleaf soundtrack. 1 wasn't nervous taking on the role of Charity as much as I was simply hoping to be good enough as I was cast in the midst of legends! Working opposite of Lynn Whitfield, Keith David and Oprah Winfrey is nothing to play with. They've paved the way for me to be able to do what I'm doing today."
Winans was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and is part of the renowned gospel Winans family. Contrary to her family's musical legacy, Deborah Joy was passionate about acting and the singing came later at the age of 18 when she was asked to act and sing in a church theatrical production. Deborah Joy received her BFA from Wayne State University and Moscow Art Theater School and holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Deborah Joy's acting career has come full circle with her family legacy, portraying her real-life aunt, Cece Winans in the Angela Bassett directed television movie, Whitney. Winans also starred in the short, Fighting the Battle and in the feature film, Fragile World. Deborah Joy was a guest voice-over artist for several Grammy award-winning projects such as Mary Mary's The Sound and Kelly Price's audio book. This year Deborah Joy has also performed alongside her brother Juan Winans in the inspirational musical Born For This, a play written by Bebe Winans and Charles Randolph Wright. In 2016, the musical first ran at the Arena Stage in Washington DC and has now moved to the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California for the summer July 11 - August 6, 2017).
The Winans' siblings portray their iconic Grammy award-winning gospel aunt and uncle, Cece and Bebe Winans in the musical production. "It's been amazing having the opportunity-y to portray my aunt! For Born for This in particular, it's been incredible learning her journey and how she has gotten to where she is today!"
Deborah Joy has truly been stepping into some great roles on her own and has built an amazing platform for herself, but she has no plans on stepping away from the Winans legacy; "I am who I am and I'm proud to be so! The Bible says that a good name is rather to be chosen than riches. God gave us a legacy and I'm grateful for it. While we share a name we are not the same. I am walking the path that God has given me to walk while cherishing what He has already done through other members of my family."
By taking her craft seriously and empowering women at the same time, Dcborah Joy is emerging as a great role model for women. When asked about her "must do's" for getting into character, Winans explained, "My "must do's" arc very simple. Do the work! I do script work to understand what my character wants and why they want it. I make sure I learn my lines the way they were written. I physically work out so that when I get to work I'm ready in all aspects to give and receive and "play" until we get the scene the way it's supposed to be!"
Walking her own path has proven to be the best choice. In addition to receiving the 2017 Full and Fabulous Drama Icon Award, Deborah Joy also received a nomination for New Artist of the Year at the 2017 Stellar Awards, for her work on the Greenleaf Soundtrack. The single, The Master's Calling, went to number 15 on the Gospel Billboard Chart. Previously on tour with the Women of Faith Conference, Dcborahjoy inspired and empowered thousands of women through a weekend of bonding and conversations. "I believe I'm inspired to empower women because I WAS inspired by women. Fitting into the mold has never been an option for me and so I look for Lo empower women who feel like they have to fit the mold that has been laid out for them! THEY DON'T!".
We truly cannot wait to see more of Deborah Winans! She has demonstrated that hard work truly does pay off, all you need is faith, be dedicated to your craft and have a solid foundation. "A strong support system is SO important. Not only to help your faith and your belief when you're running on fumes yourself but even after things happen. That same support system keeps you grounded and helps to keep you focused on your path and the reasons why you do what you do. I would encourage people that don't have one to ask God for one. He will give you what you need when you need it. All you have to do is ask."
Stay up on the latest news on Deborah by following her on Instagram @Dcborahjoywinans. Also, catch up on this binge-worthy series and watch season 1 and 2 of Greenleaf on Netflix now. It has been confirmed Greenleaf will make its return for its highly anticipated 3rd season next summer, so make sure you're watching!