Danielle Brooks is presently enjoying immense success, owing to her beginning with Orange Is the New Black, Peacemaker, and lately, The Color Purple. The actress shared her journey from an acting school to her first major work and eventually how she joined Peacemaker.
Danielle Brooks, having attended the same performing arts high school as Teyonah Parris, Nicole Beharie, and Stacey Scott, got accustomed to plenty of talent and skill. She followed the same famous names to The Juilliard School, learning the very best of her field.
Talking about the great lessons that she learned at the world-famous performing arts school, she said, "The thing that I got from Julliard was that your work does not end after an applause. Your work continues past that, and that was very important. As actors, sometimes we can be selfish, and after we receive the gift of getting a standing ovation, we think the work is done, but we have so much more work to do, and it’s okay to be a little political, and it’s okay to have something to stand for, and I definitely take that with me forever.”
Though she gathered a lot from her school, coming into the industry and working in it was an entirely different experience, something that she could not have learned at the school.
“Something that all of the studying in the world could not have prepared me for would be for Orange Is the New Black," she shared when talking about her hit series. "In school, we’re taught something called IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet, and it’s supposed to be like standard American way of speaking, and it neutralizes your voice so that you can go from country to doing a British accent to doing all these things, and with Orange, I just needed to be myself. I needed to bring what I knew."
Even though her formal acting schooling helped her play her role as Taytsee, there was so much that she had to unlearn for her novel acting experience. Her individual talent shined through when she played the part and added to her prowess. Hence, Brooks not only managed to make her character a fan favorite and someone who would be remembered for a while but also earned herself three Screen Actors Guild awards for her Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
Orange Is the New Black became a series that would later define her acting career and ensured that she got A-list treatment when cast in new productions. In fact, Brooks did not need to audition for Peacemaker and was simply offered the role by James Gunn.
“I didn’t have to audition for this. James Gunn was just like, ‘You’re my girl.’ But it’s terrifying because you don’t know if you’re really what they want," she said about her casting in Peacemaker.
Even though she received the role with considerable ease, Brooks was afraid she would not be the perfect choice for the character as she was not sure if she could perform the part.
"When you audition, you know. You got the audition. They said yes to you. Everybody had to approve you. And they had to approve you even if you are chosen, but you still never know until you get on set, so I was terrified," she explained her fears. "That first few days, I think it was the first or second day I was on set. James asked me to improv, and he had me go and go because he loves giving people an opportunity to do their own thing. And I improvved, and it was so funny. James would not stop laughing, and he ended up using a lot of it."
Continuing on about her experience with the impromptu cinema, she added, "Steve Agee, my castmate, is sitting there taping it. We’re all breaking character. We even got John Cena to break a little bit, which is very hard. But it was nerve-racking! But the cool thing [is] you do good work, you do the work so that you can beget more work, and that’s what Orange did for me.”
Peacemaker became an instant hit with HBO Max, even before the show could premiere, guaranteeing a second season right away. Season 1 was solely directed by James Gunn, and it was such an amazing experience for him that he got to both write and direct the next season of the show.
Sharing how the director made the entirety of the season work, Brooks explained, "Not that I haven’t been on other sets that way, but we do French hours, which are 10-hours days, and he gets it done. That man knows what he wants, and he gets it done, and his crew does as well."
The show is very likely to expand on Brooks' character as Adebayo, the daughter of Amanda Waller. “It’s more internal than we get to share with the audience what that is, and that would be so cool for a Season 2, especially because I love Viola Davis!" she said of her idea for season 2.
"I definitely hope that James Gunn explores that in Season 2. But yeah, it’s this whole internal struggle with dealing with her mom and having to be grateful for this job so that she can provide for her family, her wife, but at the same token. It’s like trying to operate in a way that she knows is best for her and what’s right for her to do and not just what her mother is telling her to do. Which brings such a beautiful parallel between her, Adebayo, and Peacemaker."
Continuing to explain where Adebayo and Peacemaker stand now in the series, Brooks told Collider, "They’re both struggling with the same thing. They’re so freakin’ different, but yet their biggest challenge right now is the same challenge. And so it’s really cool to see how they’re navigating it and how they both have to be honest with each other and push each other forward.”
The character of Brooks had an amazing sense of connectivity with the rest of the characters, mostly with the Peacemaker. But seeing her betray him, in the end, was too surprising to witness. Yet, it was also expected of her as she tried to pacify her struggle with her mother and please her.
"I think we all have that thing; you want to do right by your parents. You want them to be proud of you. You want to just make them proud, and so that was that internal struggle with the diary and then trying to right her wrong after the fact, too," she explained when sharing why she betrayed Peacemaker. "It’s like, you build this trust to just break it down, but luckily, there are opportunities to redeem yourself, and I think that’s what this is about too is redemption.”