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Actress Danielle Brooks On Portraying Legendary Singer, Activist Mahalia Jackson In Lifetime Movie

Film and Broadway actress Danielle Brooks joined "Closer Look" host Rose Scott on Wednesday's edition of the program for a conversation about her starring role in the upcoming Lifetime film "Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia."
Film and Broadway actress Danielle Brooks joined "Closer Look" host Rose Scott on Wednesday's edition of the program for a conversation about her starring role in the upcoming Lifetime film "Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia."
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She’s known as the “Queen of Gospel,” and her voice is instantly recognizable.

Today, Mahalia Jackson is remembered for her rise to fame as a prolific gospel singer and work as a civil rights activist.

However, a new Lifetime movie delves deeper into Jackson’s life before stardom and as a young girl growing up in New Orleans during the early 1920s.

For television and Broadway actress Danielle Brooks, who stars as Jackson in the upcoming movie “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia,” it was a dream to be handpicked to play the part.

In a one-on-one interview on “Closer Look”, prior to the film’s release on Saturday, Brooks told host Rose Scott she aimed to embody Jackson’s unique vocal style.

“Her phrasing is longer than mine. And, she clips her words …” Brooks said. “Those little things like that, I just had to be very detailed and just let loose a little bit vocally.”

Brooks also revealed she sang 85% of the movie’s music live.

The role was a new direction for Brooks, who was born in Augusta.

“When I first started, I didn’t have the choice to take [certain roles.]” she said. “I needed to pay my rent.”

In recent years, Brooks has portrayed Taystee on the hit Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” and Sofia in Broadway’s “The Color Purple.”

Looking ahead, Brooks told Scott she feels empowered to take on more roles that will pave the way for the next generation of artists, citing inspirations like Queen Latifah and Viola Davis.

“Now I’m able to make decisions that are greater than myself,” she said.

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.