'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks to Play Mahalia Jackson in Lifetime Movie

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Mahalia Jackson and Danielle Brooks
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson is getting the movie treatment.

Jackson's life story will be told in an upcoming Lifetime TV movie as part of a new four-film deal the cable network has signed with journalist and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, who will continue the "Robin Roberts Presents" banner through the partnership.

Orange Is the New Black alumna Danielle Brooks has been tapped to play the legendary gospel singer and civil rights activist, with Kenny Leon (American Son) set to direct Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story. This marks a reunion between Brooks and Leon since they last worked together in the 2019 theater production of Much Ado About Nothing

The Mahalia Jackson Story aims to explore Jackson's journey from a young singer in New Orleans, Louisiana, to becoming a revered gospel figure in the U.S. and her music becoming integral during the civil rights movement. Jackson's 1947 recording of "Move on Up a Little Higher" catapulted her to international fame, creating opportunities to perform in front of a racially integrated audience at Carnegie Hall and at John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball. A civil rights activist, Jackson performed at several rallies, including the 1963's March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in "hopes that her music would encourage and inspire racial equality," according to Lifetime's synopsis of the film.

Brooks is best known for playing Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on Orange Is the New Black. She also made her Broadway debut in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple, earning a Tony nomination and winning a GRAMMY for the cast album. In July 2019, Brooks released a four-song EP, Four, which includes "Seasons," a song featured in the series finale of Orange Is the New Black.

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