By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Every good drama needs a bad guy. From the first minutes of OWN's"Greenleaf," the clear villain was scowling Robert "Mac" McCready, played by Atlanta actor Gregory Alan Williams.
Williams - a character actor you've seen on "Baywatch," "The Sopranos," "Drop Dead Diva" and "Necessary Roughness" - embraces this juicy role with gusto.
"At this point, he's universally hated by 'Greenleaf' watchers as well as he should be," Williams said in an interview today in advance of tonight's key episode. "There could be no good without evil. It's a dirty job. Someone has to do it. It's a very challenging role. I absolutely welcome it. Bad guys get a lot of attention. People love to hate you."
Williams, who has lived in Atlanta for nearly 20 years, plays the brother of steely Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whifield) and right-hand man to charismatic Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David). Unfortunately, Mac is no saint. He likes teen-age girls in a much too intimate way and has taken advantage of several of them over the years. One of them was Faith, Greenleaf's daughter who committed suicide, an act that brought another daughter Grace (Merle Dandridge) back to Memphis.
Grace knew about Mac's reprehensible behavior for many years but her parents never believed her. With help from Mac's estranged sister Mavis, played by Oprah Winfrey, she spent several episodes gathering evidence against Mac.
In episode seven, aired two weeks ago, the producers gave over the entire episode to Mac as we learn his methods for coaxing teen girls into his lair. In the case of a neighbor's girl Michaela, he related to her his own rough childhood and near suicide attempt as a bonding technique While some viewers questioned whether anything Mac was saying was true, Williams said he used the truth to his advantage.
"He never lied during that scene," Williams said. "Not once. What's important to note, he's seducing this girl with the truth. We think of abusers as people lurking in dark alleys with hoods and snatching children. At that age, that's not how they operate. They operate smoothly in positions of trust. I thought the writers did a good job illustrating that. I was pleased the producers elected to give this guy some layers. That's rare. They could have let him just be the villain."
With enough evidence at hand, Grace last episode approached her father. She was readying to go to the cops with all the evidence but her former squeeze and security man Noah was getting married to Isabel. So she wanted to hold off until after the wedding. Her dad agreed but he also had to keep Mac from leaving for a long fishing trip, even offering to pay for his tickets so he could stick around.
Suspicious, Mac went to Lady Mae. Soon after, Grace and the Bishop told Lady Mae of her brother's transgressions. In an emotional scene, she confronted him. He tried to convince her he was innocent. She pretended to buy it. But she knew he was guilty as sin as he cried after she departed.
As last Wednesday's episode closes, the Bishop confronts Mac with a gun. What is to become of Mac? He appears cornered. His life as he knows it is about to change irrevocably. Or he'll be dead.
Williams, of course, won't say what will happen - or if he'll even have a job when "Greenleaf" returns season two.
But he did pass on what executive producer Clement Virgo told him about Mac: "He always has a plan."
The reality is Mac has leverage. He knows all of the Bishop's dark secrets as well. He could potentially blackmail the Bishop into not turning him in.
UPDATE AND SPOILER ALERT: Well, the Bishop did shoot his brother in law. But not to death. Williams gets to keep his job! The bullet went through his shoulder and was not fatal. The Bishop does not want to call the cops. But Grace does anyway and the Bishop is carted off by the cops. When he got out of jail, he told the Deacon Board, "I'm still in charge here." And he booted Grace out. Hmm... He has done a sudden 180 degree turn on his beloved daughter Grace. What did Mac say? Lynn Whitfield, by the way, holds a master class in acting this episode.
"Greenleaf," Williams notes, hasn't shied away from tough issues. There was a black cop who accidentally shot a kid. With Grace's support, the church brass reluctantly supported the cop. Ultimately, the police officer was exonerated in an episode that aired the same day a cop was cleared for shooting Freddie Gray. Then there's Tye White's character grappling with possibly being gay, something that isn't accepted in most black churches in the South, even in this day and age.
"I have a family member who has been hiding in plain sight for 40 years," Williams said. "He cannot be who he is openly, love who he loves openly. That's being tackled by the show."
Paraphrasing Lyndon B. Johnson's vice president Hubert Humphrey, 60-year-old Williams said, "I'm pleased as punch to be part of this team, to be part of this show. I couldn't wish for a better situation."
"Greenleaf," episode 10 of 13 airs tonight at 10 p.m. on OWN