What keeps running through my head is, Danielle Brooks, what are you adding to American theater? What are you adding to Hollywood? For me, it’s the simple fact that representation really, truly matters.
You grew up singing in church and held your own against Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo in “The Color Purple.” Where does that moxie come from?
I had a lot of anxiety with “The Color Purple.” I had to go to counseling during that process because I had impostor syndrome even though I trained four years at one of the top conservatories. I still felt like I had fooled the world into believing that I was better than I was.
Do you feel legit yet? I mean, you earned a Tony nomination.
I’m just now getting to the point that it’s really not about the notes, it’s not about how great your tone is. This is about, Can you make people feel with your words? Kenny always says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I can’t compare myself to the people I love — the Ledisis, the India.Aries, the Jennifer Hudsons. I gotta be Danielle Brooks.
What’s your takeaway after seven seasons of “Orange”?
“Orange” actually helped me with discovering my place in this industry. To be a part of a cast where there was more than one woman of color that was the lead and we all were able to shine, where the world will fall in love with you for you being you, not because you have this 16-inch wig on or you have the flowiest lashes or your waist is a size 24. I was like, wow, people love me for who I am and the work that I bring.
You’re a first-time executive producer on “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” which earned 12 Tony nominations (and won for best choreography).
That’s one of those things you manifest. You speak it into existence, you make it happen. My friend Jeremy Pope asked me to watch them rehearse one day in the studio — no lights, no costumes, nothing — and I was amazed. It was the first time I had seen more than five black men get to show the depth of who they are. And they weren’t just up there dancing and singing, they were sharing their souls. I was like, I want to be a part of this. I wanted to learn what are the ins and outs of this world. How can we get more people of color into the theater? And how can I begin to put on stage the things that I want to see?