SC Governors School grad Danielle Brooks channels gospel legend Mahalia Jackson in new film
She grew up right here in the Upstate and graduated from the SC Governors School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville before going to Julliard, Broadway and beyond.
Grammy and Screen Actors Guild award winner Danielle Brooks talked with Your Carolina’s Jamarcus Gaston about her latest role channeling gospel legend Mahalia Jackson and offered some advice to area young people who have their dreams set on Hollywood.
“I really have to thank my church family, Bethlehem Baptist Church, where I actually learned how to sing and did my first church play there,” Brooks said. “My mother and her best friends wrote a play and my mother starred in it, and that’s where I got my love for acting.”
Brooks received additional training at League Academy and the SC Governors School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville. When she was accepted to The Julliard School in New York City, her church family and the Greenville community helped raise funds to pay for her tuition.
“I am so grateful that Greenville had so many arts programs for people my age,” Brooks said. “There have been so many incredible artists to come out of Greenville, and I am very glad to be one of a few, now.”
Having grown up in the church, Brooks says there are many similarities between her own life and the character she plays in Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.
“She was trying to figure out how to navigate Hollywood at the time and hold on to her faith,” Brooks said. “All of the fears and the hopes that she had, I can totally relate to.”
Widely considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century, Mahalia Jackson’s singing and film career spanned 40 years. A native of New Orleans and the granddaughter of slaves, Jackson was integral to the development and spread of gospel blues in black churches throughout the United States.
Grateful to her own faith community that is clearly proud and supportive of their native daughter, Brooks wants to pass along that support to the next group of young Greenville performers.
“I would say to any young person that wants to do this that you can do it,” Brooks said. “You have examples of myself and Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Hall. There are so many of us that are making it out of South Carolina. Your dreams are valid. Dream as huge as you can and go for the gold.”
Brooks is best known for her role as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black and the voice of Officer Pearle Watson on the HBO Max animated series, Close Enough. She received a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, MORE, and a Tony nomination for the role of Sofia in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple.
If you missed Robin Roberts presents Mahalia or want to watch the movie online when it becomes available, check out free trials of Fubo TV or Philo.