Even those in Hollywood still get starstruck by meeting the one and only Oprah Winfrey.
Actress Merle Dandridge tells PEOPLE she reacted the way most people would when meeting her Greenleaf costar: forgetting everything that happened.
The 41-year-old actress says the moment she found out she was going to meet Winfrey, 62, was very unexpected after her audition for the new show on OWN.
“I was working on another television show and I got an email while I was in between shots. The email was very simply, ‘Ms. Winfrey would like to meet you at 6 p.m. today,'” Dandridge recalls. “I dropped the phone.”
Dandridge says she drove over after work to meet Winfrey and after “the doors opened and the clouds parted” to reveal the star in her office, she reveals she blacked out and can’t remember what happened next.
“I think I went into a moment of like emotional paralysis because I don’t remember a whole lot of what happened,” Dandridge admits laughing.
In the new Winfrey-produced show, Dandridge plays Grace, the estranged daughter of the titular Greenleaf family, an African-American religious dynasty that runs a megachurch in Memphis. Dandridge’s character comes back home after 20 years following the mysterious death of her sister and finds herself right back in the position she was so desperate to leave behind.
Winfrey also stars in the show alongside Dandridge, which she says brought a calming factor to the set.
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“I was super nervous to have a scene with her, but it all gets disarmed when you go to work with her because she’s just so present with you,” Dandridge says. “She’s really great about making people feel comfortable around her. I think she knows that she’s so iconic that people are very intimidated and maybe tip-toe … she’s really good at breaking down those walls and saying, ‘Hey let’s just get in the dirt together, let’s just do this,’ and brings your best out as well, so you can feel comfortable to just play.”
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Winfrey promises a show full of flawed characters that mirror real life.
Dandridge says this was one of the reasons she signed on: to cover hot button issues while humanizing them.
“We are going to delve into some of those things that are really kind of dividing our country these days,” Dandridge adds.
The actress teases that fans can expect “some serious juiciness” from the show this season.
Greenleaf airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.