Saving Grace: Greg Alan Williams
In what was a shocker for Greenleaf fans—especially so early in season three —was the death of Greenleaf’s Uncle Mac (Robert ‘Mac’ McCready) at the hands of Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge). The drama building to the moment was palpable, but what was just as unmistakable was what David Alan Williams brought to the table as an actor.
So much so that Oprah Winfrey released a glowing statement of Williams after the episode aired, stating, “Had it not been for Greg Alan’s exquisite acting, Mac would have been eliminated in the very first season.
“We knew from the beginning,” Winfrey went on to say, “that if you have a predator, that predator has to be brought to justice. There had to be a stunning ending because there was no way you can let the predator continue to thrive. None of us wanted to take him out because we love Greg so much.”
In the end, producers felt they had to do what was best for the story.
That the audience universally hated Mac was affirmation to Williams that he was doing his job. But for Williams it, too, was time to go. “Villains can be a lot of fun,” said Williams. “But this villain wears on you, because he’s so real. The storyline illuminated the whole issue of abuse and how these individuals position themselves to abuse children and to work with such a marvelous cast is a dream come true and certainly being a part of Ms. Winfrey’s vision to make her audience aware of how abusers function. She said that she wanted the audience understand that abusers are seducers.”
For all the enlightenment, the role was wearing on Williams.
“It took a greater toll than I realized,” the 61-year old Atlanta resident states. “There’s a darkness and sadness about Mac I was carrying with me. You will continue to see Mac for a few more episodes and secrets are going to be revealed, but he won’t be back for season three.”
And though Williams appreciated the challenge, he admits that there was some concern in the beginning.
“What allayed my concerns was that they were treating the traditions of the church respectfully and that people are smart enough to discern the difference between Greg Alan Williams and Robert Mac McCreedy.”
At the end of the day, the timing for Uncle Mac’s death couldn’t have been any better for Williams who has five projects coming up including Director Bill Duke’s upcoming legal drama, “Created Equal” and “All Saints”, which released last month. “A Question of Faith” is set to hit theaters later this month and “Geostorm” starring Gerald Butler and Abbie Cornish will hit the box office in October.
Williams is currently in the midst of a promotional tour for the upcoming release of “A Question of Faith”—a movie he can’t seem to stop saying good things about.
“This is the most profound film I’ve ever been blessed to be part of,” William says. “It is this wonderful story of grace, forgiving, and healing—the sort of movie that will attract all kinds of people because it reminds us of the kind people we are and how much we have in common. It reminds us how to love one another.”
“I am grateful for it,” Williams continues, “because I’m able to play a pedophile in “Greenleaf” and a priest in “A Question of Faith”. I’ve always talked to new actors about developing range to portray a variety of characters. This proves the point professionally for me. I talked to a guy yesterday who saw the movie and he said “I’ll never call you Uncle Mac again”. I was somewhere else and a lady said, “you have redeemed yourself in my eyes.”
Truth is, Williams has frequently been cast in the role of a preacher and for such roles, he has a deep well of personal experience to draw from.
“Some say that I look like preacher and because as a young man I was able to put words together, people would say, ‘that boy gone be a preacher’. In fact, a very prominent bishop three weeks ago—after he watched the show—came to me and said, “I can see the anointing. You need to come and talk to me.”
“I’m a little too old to be changing careers,” Williams chuckles before adding, “but I’ll tell you this, I am extremely grateful to be able to impersonate men of God respectfully.” In fact, Williams has been in church his whole life.
“I come from the Church of God in Christ tradition. My mother was a Sunday school teacher. There is no doubt that I am channeling Bishop Kendrill and Bishop Goodman and the preachers who where important in my life as a child and as a teenager. I steal things from them all the time.”
But his biggest inspiration and training came from his mother. "My mother was an actress without a venue. She began teaching me the art of the spoken and written word by the time I was 2 or 3 and for me the exercise of that craft was in the church," Williams explains. "My mother gave me great gifts that I literally earn my living with today."
Williams admits that his decision to try his hand at acting professionally was more of an economic choice than anything else. At the time, he was a 20-year-old in St. Paul Minnesota singing lead and playing keyboards for Flyte Tyme—Terry Lewis' and Jimmy Jam's first musical venture—when he was offered a steady paycheck in return for his services as a member of one of the first repertory theaters in St. Paul. Without an ounce of formal training, save what his mother passed on to him, Williams continued with stage work for a few years before heading to Los Angeles where he landed small parts on television and voiceover work.
His first big break in 1995 when he was cast in a recurring role as Detective Garner Ellerbee on Baywatch Nights and subsequently Baywatch. Roles in “The Sopranos”, “The West Wing”, “Army Wives”, “The Game”, “Necessary Roughness” and “Almost Christmas” would be among the over 145 acting credits he has amassed.
And acting isn’t Williams only talent. He’s a writer as well as evidenced in the release of his book “Heart of A Woman”, which he says gives him the opportunity to combine his skill and experience as a writer with his skill as an actor.
“I love writing,” says the divorced father of five boys (the youngest of which is in high school) who once worked as a copywriter at -KJLH for three years and a journalist in the Marine Corps.
“Creating that DNA is a wonderful pursuit and one of the things that has always amazed me is the kind of camaraderie and closeness that can exist between women.”
When he’s not working, Williams spends time mentoring boys and teaching acting in the Atlanta-based film studio he owns and operates.
“It’s not what you take, it’s what you leave,” says Williams. “This is the legacy. We’ve got people there who’ve come to us almost directly from the penitentiary. We’ve got all kind people who actually work in this industry and we’ve been blessed to be a part of that.
“I made some choices early in my career, so I’m not at the Denzel level, but I really didn’t get started into the television until my early thirties. I was in theatre a lot, and I worked radio, but I had some personal challenges that prevented me from building my career as a young actor. I’m grateful for the work I’m able to do now, but I’m more grateful to be part of the success of these young African-American actors.”
“What I do in my life is far more important than who I pretend to be. I have children, I have students and I’ve got a boat up on lake, so I have a real life. That’s what keeps me going.”