Orange Is the New Black alum Danielle Brooks has some big lungs to fill, playing the titular gospel legend and civil rights activist in Lifetime’s Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story.
The biopic will tell the story of the New Orleans-born Jackson, who went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history. Her recording of the song “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies, skyrocketing her to international fame as she performed in front of racially integrated audiences at Carnegie Hall and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball. Jackson was an active supporter of the Civil Rights movement, singing at rallies like the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brooks is best known for her role as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson in the aforementioned Netflix prison dramedy, for which she won three Screen Actors Guild Awards. Prior to that, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of The Color Purple, scoring her a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her TV credits also include guest-starring turns on Master of None, High Maintenance and Girls.
Coming off the heels of The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, Lifetime’s next foray into the Gospel world marks the first of four new films for the network under the “Robin Roberts Presents” banner, in partnership with the journalist. Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon, who helmed the all-Black remake of Steel Magnolias, will direct, and previously worked with Brooks on a 2019 stage production of Much Ado About Nothing.
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