The first scene filmed for Oprah's new show was so 'Ironic'

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Merle Dandridge on Getting Her First Lead Role in a TV Drama

By Lisa Capretto, OWN

OWN's upcoming drama, "Greenleaf," appears to be anchored by two main pillars: faith and family.

The series, which premieres next week, focuses on the wealthy Greenleaf family, who runs a sprawling Memphis mega-church. The family dynamics are complicated, to say the least, made up of many layers and built-in backstories. That's why, according to executive producer Oprah Winfrey, the first day of filming "Greenleaf" kicked off with a rather "ironic" scene.

Sitting down with "Greenleaf" lead Merle Dandridge (Grace "Gigi" Greenleaf), Oprah asks a pointed question about being on set when filming began.

"This is what's ironic. First scene, first day is the family sitting at the table -- this is when you all have barely gotten to know each other," Oprah points out. "What did it feel like sitting at that table?"

See the first images from 'Greenleaf':

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Oprah's 'Greenleaf'
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The first scene filmed for Oprah's new show was so 'Ironic'
Bishop James Greenleaf
Sophia Greenleaf and Zora Greenleaf
Bishop James Greenleaf.
Kerissa Greenleaf and Jacob Greenleaf.
Lady Mae Greenleaf.
Grace Greenleaf.
Oprah Winfrey as Mavis McCready and Lynn Whitfield as Lady Mae Greenleaf.
Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge) and her father Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David).
Kevin Satterlee.
Merle Dandridge "Grace Greenleaf".
Keith David as "Bishop James Greenleaf".
Kim Hawthrone as "Kerissa Greenleaf".
Lamman Rucker as "Jacob Greenleaf".
Tye White as "Kevin Satterlee".
Deborah Joy Winans as "Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee".
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In the sequence of the show, that family dinner scene occurs when Dandridge's character has returned to the family mansion after a 20-year absence. The scene is dripping with the tension and undertones that have built up over two decades, and yet, the cast themselves had barely had a chance to bond. Still, Dandridge believes they were all thinking the same thing in that moment.

RELATED: See the making of the 'Greenleaf' theme song

Making of the Greenleaf Theme

"For everyone, it kind of solidified what I think we already knew: We were in something special," she says. "We were all -- every single one of us -- going to be a part of making this an extraordinary journey."

The "Greenleaf" cast includes veteran actors like Emmy winners Lynn Whitfield and Keith David, and relative newcomers like Desiree Ross ("A Country Christmas Story") and Tye White ("The People v. OJ Simpson").

"I knew that I was going to learn from these people, that I was going to grow from them and that I was going to come out on the other side even better than I could have even dreamed," Dandridge says.

"Greenleaf" premieres with a two-night event beginning Tuesday, June 21, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Another behind-the-scenes look at the show:

Oprah explains how her "Greenleaf" character is like Maya Angelou, "if Maya Angelou ran a nightclub"

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