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SIMPLY JESSICA: Desiree Ross talks about her new series

Desiree Ross wants to say something that is going to make a difference and she wants to change something in the world.

The 17-year-old actress hopes her acting roles will help her accomplish that mission. Her latest role is Sophia Greenleaf in the upcoming church drama “Greenleaf,” about a black church family and the secrets and lies that exist inside the church.

The cast includes such giants as Oprah Winfrey and Lynn Whitfield. “Greenleaf” will debut on June 21 and June 22 on OWN television.

Sophia Greenleaf is the 16-year-old daughter of Grace, played by Merle Dandridge. Grace and Sophia have returned to Memphis to be re-united with the Grace family after her sister dies.

Sophia is meeting Grace’s family for the first time because Grace has kept her away from her family. Grace has always been known as the black girl in an all-white school environment and now it will be the opposite for Grace in Memphis as she adjusts from being in an all-white culture to a predominantly black culture.

“She will have to learn what it means to go to church,” Ross said.

“Grace not being a Christian makes everyone be mean to her. She has never been to church except holidays. Grace has to deal with all that and regular teenage drama. She has a lot going on.”

Ross loves how pure Sophia is in everything that she does.

“Sophia is a good role model, she added. “She does not handle things right all the time but she does her best to practice her faith and do it with simple intentions with no malicious intent behind it. “

The South Carolina native grew up in the South. She knows how important church is to the South as she spends six months in South Carolina and the other six months in Atlanta shooting “Greenleaf.”

Ross thinks there are three things that make “Greenleaf” a unique and special show to watch. It is the aspect of family, the battle between right and wrong, and watching different family members in faith do things that are morally wrong as they try to grow in their faith.

Ross knows that the South is nicknamed the Bible Belt.

It is the sweet tea that she loves about growing up in the South.

“Whenever I go to California, I always ask for sweet tea,” Ross said. “I always forget that they only have iced tea. The only place you can get sweet tea is at McDonalds, which is terrible but I still try.”

Ross expands on what the family dynamics are like on the show.

“We are not a perfect family, but I think that is what makes the show so awesome,” Ross said. “Everything that happens on the show does not happen in a real church. There is a lot of drama but you have to remember that it’s a television show about a black church family.”

Ross knows that there will be controversy, but the show is prepared to deal with it as it comes. In the interim, as the show prepares to see how it will be perceived by viewers, Ross loves her on set bedroom.

“My bedroom was put together in a day,” she said. “I can’t clean my room in a day. Another thing I love are the clothes. I get to wear a lot of things that fit my personality.”

Ross has a younger brother who is 11 years old and just graduated from middle school. She recently attended his graduation on May 27.

This teenage girl is eager to make her mark on the world just as Oprah did. Ross is learning as much as she can from the media mogul who has so much to teach Ross.

“I love Oprah,” Ross said. “She’s so inspiring to everyone.”

Ross was about to do a test run to fly to Toronto to be a lead in a Nickelodeon show but her agent pushed for her to think more about the role as Sophia Greenleaf. It paid off because within three days of auditioning for the role, she won the part on Oprah’s show.

“I prayed because I wanted the part, “ Ross said. “I was crying because I had these two amazing roles to pick from.”

The Christian teen knew that prayer would bring her the answers.

“Having Oprah working with me made it something else,” Ross said. “Oprah called the casting director and told him that she loved me when she saw my tape. I was in the car with my friend and I was freaking out. I was jumping up and down in my seat because I was so giddy and excited.

“It was hard for my friend to keep her eyes on the road. Having Oprah say she liked what you did with a character was amazing. I can’t put that feeling into words.”

Ross would have that feeling again. It would happen when she saw Oprah for the first time in real life. She was in the production office signing paperwork with her mom about who would be her guardian. She did not know that Oprah would be there.

“I was trying to see if I could see Oprah,” Ross said. “Oprah stuck her head out the door I looked back and I gasped and my jaw dropped.

“I told my mom that Oprah just went back into the room and closed the door. I was like how do you approach Oprah to say hi to her.”

It was an opportunity that Ross was eager to experience.

“Oprah said, ‘Hi Desiree, It is nice to meet you,’” Ross said. “I wasn’t sure how to greet her if I should extend my hand. I reached out my hand to shake her hand but then she pulled me in and gave me a huge hug. She smelled so good. Oprah is amazing.”

It was hard to turn down the Nickelodeon opportunity but Ross admits that working with Oprah has made it worth it.

“It was hard to turn down Nickelodeon,” Ross said. “I would have loved to have had both opportunities. I was like ‘God why did you put these two amazing opportunities in front of me at the same time.’ I had been waiting for months to book another role and then all of a sudden, two incredible opportunities came to me. I did not have the role on the Nickelodeon show I was up for the lead.”

This teen southern belle has also worked with Dolly Parton.

She worked with Dolly Parton in her first professional movie role.

“Dolly is super sweet,” Ross said. “Dolly is one of those people that whoever she is with at that moment, they have her full attention and no one can take her away until she is done talking to you.”

“To meet Dolly Parton and sing a song that she wrote for my character was like me working with Oprah right now,” Ross said.

“I never would have imagined it but I had parents that pushed me toward my goal. That role has a big place in my heart.”

“A Country Christmas Story” allowed Ross to have an impact in the lives of many young girls who watched the 2013 movie.

“I hear stories from girls about how they were going through the same thing that my character Grace was going through and by watching my movie, it helped them with it,” Ross said. “I am moved each time that I hear a story like this because I want my acting roles to have an impact and make a difference in the world.”

Be yourself! I’m Simply Jessica JcAden. You can reach me at jess.gosnell@gmail.com.