Danielle Brooks Transforms into Civil Rights Trailblazer Mahalia Jackson in Biopic First Look

Danielle Brooks Transforms into Civil Rights Trailblazer Mahalia Jackson in Biopic First Look

02/17/2021

https://www.youtube.com/embed/EL09Y8W3B84

Danielle Brooks is returning to her musical roots in Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.

The Orange Is the New Black actress, 31, stars as gospel legend and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson in the upcoming Lifetime biopic — and PEOPLE has the exclusive first look at the transformation.

In the trailer, Brooks' Jackson attempts to navigate her rising fame amid the Civil Rights Movement. "All these white folks tell me how wonderful I am, then they get mad when I buy a house in their neighborhood," she says.

Born in New Orleans, Jackson skyrocketed to international fame in 1947 with her song "Move On Up a Little Higher." An active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, she sang at numerous rallies, including the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the hope that her music would encourage and inspire racial equality. She died at age 60 in 1972.

"Dear Lord," she says in the trailer, "your gift wasn't my voice, your gift was my purpose."

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Brooks has credited her former Color Purple Broadway costar Jennifer Hudson for initially piquing her interest in the role.

"I had the privilege of working with Jennifer Hudson and I remember her coming to my dressing room, which she did every day before she got on stage, and we would chat and she said, 'You should play Mahalia Jackson,'" the actress recalled at Lifetime's TCA presentation earlier this month, according to Deadline.

And after yet another person recommended the role to her, Brooks said she began to take it as a sign.

"Maybe God is telling me I should really think about this character or this person," she said. "So they planted that seed and I immediately started grabbing books and telling my team at the time that I was interested in seeing where this could go."

In addition to Brooks, the Kenny Leon-directed film stars Joaquina Kalukango (Slave Play), Jason Dirden (Fences), Olivia Washington (The Butler) and Rob Demery (Lovecraft Country). From Rock'n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions, Mahalia is executive produced by Robin Roberts and Linda Berman. Brooks and Leon are co-executive producers.

Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia premieres April 3 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.


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