It doesn’t matter if Lynn Whitfield’s character is slightly off her rocker (A Thin Line Between Love And Hate) or sitting at the head of the table (OWN’s hit drama Greenleaf), the Emmy-winning actress always seems at home in front of a camera. But that’s the ironic part about the Louisiana native’s story — she is so rarely at home.
As you’ll see below, when the timeless Whitfield isn’t shooting TV shows in Atlanta, she’s reminiscing about New York City, taking a romantic train ride through South Africa or contemplating a sailing trip around Italy.
Where in the world are you right now?
At the moment, I’m in Atlanta.
Are you filming something here?
We film Greenleaf here. And so, I’m finding it to be a really great hub from which to move around.
I’m one of those people who really, really dislikes layovers. There’s the opportunity for so many things to go wrong. And don’t even talk about weather or, you know, mechanical issues. So, out of Atlanta, I find you have more options of nonstop flights.
Does this mean you’ve become a part-time Atlanta resident?
Well, we shoot here. We’ll see if we are picked up again for another season of Greenleaf. [Editor’s note: the series was indeed picked up for a fourth season on September 19.] We shoot for five months of the year and so, just by nature of the time I spend here, it’s become [familiar].
Beyond the convenience of its airport, what do you love about the city?
It’s becoming more of a foodie city, which is great. Good restaurants. And unbeknownst to me, until I spent time here, [you realize] it’s really a neighborhood place. People like their neighborhoods. Somebody who loves Cascade, they’re going on and on and on about Cascade. Somebody who loves the Highlands, they go on and on and on about that. And don’t wake up Buckhead people and their neighborhood!
I was a diehard for New York City. I raised my daughter there and everything, so I have stepped over every manner of animal dropping, snow and sleet. But New York is great for that, because it is very equalizing when it comes to those things, like weather. At some point, you have got to brave it somewhere. Going to Home Depot in New York is like a big deal. [You’ll say,] “Well, let me see if this car will let me put this in it.” It’s more difficult that way.
I live in the French Quarter part time, and it’s the same thing. You kill for a parking spot. I find that, in Atlanta, there’s so much space. I did not know that the world had so many trees. And I, as a black woman, am not into the woods. I tend to stay in the peopled areas.
Have you fallen in love with any restaurants in Atlanta?
You know, I haven’t branched out because I don’t love driving; I love to walk. I’ll go through my South City Kitchen deal, and be like, “Oh, I just have to have that.”
And I actually really love — I used to spend my summers in the South of France with my best friend and I would take my child, who is now absolutely fluent in French, there — Bistro Niko. It’s kind of cool for that and cool for a grownup cocktail.
Years ago, I loved Buckhead Diner’s meatloaf. So totally delicious. And then I like pho, so I’ll go toward the Vietnamese communities on Buford Highway to get the best pho ever. That’s when I realized that in real pho, the broth is kind of browner and a little bit richer. So, I go looking for that.
Lynn, you are in your third season of Greenleaf. Why is this show resonating so well with people?
I think that they’re interested in a look at this family whose family business happens to be a megachurch and demystifying that whole thing — you know, the power brokerage of megachurches and looking behind the scenes of the family.
I think it resonates. As we are moving forward in the African-American community, we’re looking at things [like] a handsome young man’s question of his sexuality. I think they found that interesting. I think looking at a mature couple and them going through strife and challenges is interesting.
This whole sort of legacy look at the mansion and the elegance of their lives juxtaposed to the difficulty of their lives [is attractive]. And everybody likes a little glamour.
And just looking at the church, I think — even in the Catholic church right now — [is timely]. Look what’s going on. Pope Francis is under fire. And the things that have gone on in the evangelical community — black, white, pink, purple, all across the board. I think that supplicants, parishioners, churchgoers and sheep looking for their shepherds to do well [connect to the show].
I was just planning a trip to South Africa again. Last year, the second most-watched show on Netflix [in the country] was Greenleaf. For it to cross continents and resonate that beautifully is very gratifying. I love South Africa.
Where have you been there?
I’ve gone to Johannesburg and got to experience the amazing art scene and renaissance that is going on there in art, music and pop culture. I had the most amazing experience. I felt like I was on the Orient Express. I flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Loved Cape Town. This was a short trip, so I stayed in Cape Town for three days and that was great.
Then, I took The Blue Train, which was built in the 1930s, I believe. It’s a national monument. And it has all the wood paneling and a swanky bar. The sleeping cars are amazing. I went to Cape Town so that I could take the train back.
I wasn’t traveling with anyone, and you want to be safe, so it’s a great way to see the countryside. But I loved it so much that I actually went back to South Africa right after Christmas through the first week of January to Cape Town. I went to Franschhoek’s wineries and vineyards. It’s magical there.
Speaking of traveling by trains and planes, how are you able to keep your skin looking so good when you travel?
They say that you need to drink a lot of water. So, when I’m traveling, I do that. And, you know, being the culturalist that I am, many years ago when I was in Los Angeles, I was introduced to Korean spa culture. Before it was the big deal it is now. And those ladies taught me about exfoliating and the importance of steam, you know? So, I buy their scrub rags. I love African soap. I love essential oils. A bit of cardio is always good.
Ms. Whitfield, I really appreciate this time. It has been a pleasure.
Oh, you’re quite welcome. Thank you for keeping up with me and with our show, and for representing over there with Forbes.
Now, I want a tip from you: where have you been lately that you think is worth going?
Have you been to Italy?
Yes, I’ve been to Tuscany. I’ve been to Capri. But honestly, looking online at these yacht experiences this summer, I’m like, “Okay, I’m not living well.” The problem with Instagram is I’m [thinking], “My life is nothing!” But where did you go in Italy?
Florence and Rome… And another great place is Thailand.
I want to go.
Thailand is fantastic. The food is tremendous. And it is so beautiful.
Oh, can you send to my people all of your suggestions? Because if we do go back in January, I want to go somewhere utterly and completely enchanting and different than I’ve ever been.
I will do it.
Yay! And then we can have another interview about my travel experiences.