Growing up, Danielle Brooks, best known for Orange Is the New Black, sang every week in church and recalls seeing photos of key figures in her Sunday School classroom — icons like Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson and gospel superstar Mahalia Jackson. So she believes it was fated that she eventually would get to play the singer, she told me during the panel for Lifetime’s Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia at Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event.
“Once I became an adult, I kept getting this bug put in my ear, when I was in The Color Purple on Broadway, people said that I should play Mahalia Jackson. I was like, ‘OK. Lord, I don’t know, Universe, what you trying to tell me?’
“But I’m going to listen to the call, and so I started doing as much research as I could, and at the time, I just knew I wanted to play her, but I didn’t know the position. I didn’t know if I needed to write it myself. I didn’t know if I needed to find partners. And the universe brought me to Robin Roberts and Kenny Leon, who I just worked with in Shakespeare in the Park, and it just felt right,” she said.
Brooks was also an executive producer on the project and grateful to Roberts for letting her join in that position, especially as Roberts’ name is also in the title of the show. “She’s been such a great advocate, someone that I could always call at any moment,” Brooks said. “I just appreciate her giving, you know, setting that ladder there for me to also climb up and not being so egotistical in not allowing another woman to be executive producing this project.
“So, she really helped me succeed in that way, so I really thank her for that in getting the word out and all of that, too, and I would work with her again, for sure.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.
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