Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC
After Danielle Brooks watched Mahalia Jackson’s performance in Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” documentary, she was inspired to revisit portraying the Queen of Gospel again. The star and…
After Danielle Brooks watched Mahalia Jackson’s performance in Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” documentary, she was inspired to revisit portraying the Queen of Gospel again.
The star and co-executive producer of “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia Jackson” was a fan of the titular singer prior to signing onto Lifetime’s original movie, but getting the chance to learn more about, and ultimately push into the spotlight, her role in the Civil Rights Movement was an exciting prospect for Brooks.
“They needed each other,” Brooks said of Jackson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Mahalia needed Martin’s guidance, his leadership skills and how much he knew God and the word to get her through from day to day. Martin needed her vocals — he needed to hear the sultry music in her voice that got him to where he needed to be.”
Brooks sat down during the Variety Streaming Room, presented by Lifetime, alongside executive producer Linda Berman, to discuss bringing the gospel icon to life in a dramatized way. Chatting with Variety senior entertainment writer Angelique Jackson, they broke down the preparation required to tell the Jackson’s story, from analyzing video footage of the singer performing to reading up on her personal life — including her close bond with Dr. King and the racism she faced as a Black woman in the South.
“This is not a movie about discrimination, but it’s important to include it because it was part of Mahalia’s life, whether she wanted it to be or not,” said Berman.
Capturing Jackson’s unique vocal styling alone required a lot of steps, Brooks revealed, in part because Jackson’s voice developed a lot over time. “The way that she sang as a teenager and in her 20s is much different than how she sang in her 60s,” Brooks explained. “There is a journey through her voice — through the things that she’s experienced that she’s used to put into her body and sing.”
Even after filming, Brooks continued to watch new clips of Jackson and came across the aforementioned documentary, making her want to play the role again.
“Every time you get a new clip — especially that one where you could feel the energy and the audience — it makes you wish you could do it again,” she said.
Watch the full discussion above.