Danielle Brooks interview: ‘Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia’
“I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I knew that I was destined to play her, and here we are,” says Danielle Brooks about playing legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.” “So I think I just wanted to make sure that I did her justice and that she was honored, and I feel like we accomplished that.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Brooks above.
“There was a bit of intimidation” when it came to playing Jackson, but there was enough of that just from the circumstances surrounding the production. “At the time I’m also being a new mom. I had my one-year-old with me and in a pandemic in Vancouver … You don’t know if you can bring people out here, how many people can you shoot in a scene, and what are the restrictions of singing in a movie now? … There’s just so many factors, you know?”
But director Kenny Leon would tell her, “‘Okay, Danielle, it’s 80-percent you, 20-percent God,’ and that always kind of let go of any fear that I might have had of not feeling like I was enough or could do it.” And it’s that kind of encouragement that viewers can take from Jackson’s story. “It is a story about faith and hope and continuing to know that you’re going to be all right … We’ve been through a lot this past year, you know, with the world and the state of the country and … feeling alone and hopeless.”
Jackson lived through that and more: “This is a woman who lived through the pandemic of 1918, and a woman who’s lived through civil wars and race wars and her own personal battles with herself, and wanting to be a mother, and wanting to do right by the people that she loves … That’s the reality for a lot of us. So I think she just reminds us to keep going. Everything’s going to be all right.”