Interview with Tony nominee Danielle Brooks
Danielle Brooks is probably best known for her TV role as Tasha 'Taystee' Jefferson on the hit series "Orange is the New Black," but currently she is wowing audiences in her Broadway debut as Sofia in The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre! She recently picked up a Theatre World Award for her debut and is nominated for 'Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical' for both the Tony and Drama Desk Awrds this season.
We caught up with Danielle to talk the joys of playing Sofia and welcoming Tony winner Heather Headley to the cast as Shug Avery...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations on your Tony nomination, Danielle! You opened last autumn, so this has been quite a while coming. Is it a surreal feeling now that Awards Season is finally here?
Danielle Brooks: It definitely is a surreal feeling. My heart has always been in the theatre and to be recognised and honoured for my first Broadway show, doing the first show I ever saw on Broadway – which was ‘The Color Purple’ about ten or eleven years ago…
THM: Oh wow! ‘The Color Purple’ was the first show you ever saw?
DB: Yes! And now it’s come full circle and it’s such a surreal moment. As busy as I am, I’m trying to take in each second of it.
THM: And of course, you’ve just welcomed Tony winner Heather Headley to the cast to replace Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery. How does such a switch affect the company as a whole?
DB: It does affect us, but I think it’s good because it rejuvenates us in a way. Yesterday I was watching her and there is a scene she has with Cynthia [Erivo] where she tells her about the letters from Africa and it just rejuvenated me so much. It reminded me why I love this play, just by having a different energy there. When you’re doing the same thing for eights shows a week and we’re at the sixth month mark – we’ve done around 200 shows – you need a boost sometimes. Heather has a great energy and I think she’s really slaying it as Shug Avery.
THM: And you are slaying it as Sofia, my Dear! Your energy on stage is intoxicating. You must be loving playing such a crowd favourite and such a ballsy character?
DB: (Laughs) Yes, it is so much fun! It’s fun because a lot of people know the musical or the film already, so they really relate to Sofia and certain things that she does on stage that they already saw Oprah [Winfrey] do in the movie. She is humorous, but there’s also so much depth happening with her. She’s certainly a fun character to play.
THM: She certainly is. Well, I’ve got my fingers crossed for you for the Tonys, Danielle. And I can’t wait to see ‘The Color Purple’ again and witness you knock “Hell No!” out of the park again.
DB: Thank you so much. It was so nice to meet you.