Danielle Brooks Shares How Jennifer Hudson Had a Part in Her Portrayal of Mahalia Jackson (Exclusive)

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Danielle Brooks is getting a lot of love and praise for her portrayal of gospel songstress Mahalia Jackson in an upcoming biopic about the singer’s life. As it turns out the world might have Jennifer Hudson to thank, in part, for inspiring her.

ET’s Nischelle Turner recently spoke to Brooks, as well as executive producer Robin Roberts, who opened up about Mahalia, the upcoming Lifetime movie about the legendary performer.

“So I did The Color Purple in 2015 with Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson, and Jennifer and I became good friends over that time,” Brooks recalled of the Broadway revival of the famous stage play. “She would come to my dressing room before I would head on stage and she said to me, one day, she said, ‘Danielle, you should play Mahalia Jackson.'”

After a time, Jennifer Holliday took over the role from Hudson, and Brooks recalled how she shared similar words of advice and support.

“She said, ‘Danielle, you sound like Mahalia Jackson!’ I was like, “What?!'” Brooks recalled. “The funny thing is though, I talked to Jennifer like a month ago or so and she’s like I don’t remember.”

“But that’s OK, because to me, sometimes people are like supposed to drop a little nugget for you on your journey, as you go,” she continued. “They may not remember it. To them, it might’ve just been saying, like, ‘You have a nice smile.’ But to you, that meant so much.”

“I carry that with me,” she added, “and I’m glad she did say it, because it planted that seed that has now blossomed into what this is now.”

In Mahalia, Brooks plays the vocalist who changed the face of music with her influential voice, passion, and her activist role in the civil rights movement.

“I feel that we have seen Mahalia in civil rights movies, glimpses of her,” Roberts shared, reflecting on her motivation for helping shepherd this project into existence. “A scene here, a scene there. [But] her entire story deserved to be told.”

Mahaliapremieres April 4 on Lifetime.

 

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