We can all relate to being labeled the “angry Black woman,” the persistent stereotype that we have encountered either in the workplace, in our own community and when watching television and movies that feature Black female characters. And for Tony-nominee actress Danielle Brooks, who was very aware of this polarizing caricature, early on in her career, she made it pretty clear that she wouldn’t play a role that diminished Black women in that way—even when she first auditioned for the hit show OITNB.
“I remember Jennifer Euston, the casting director, saying to me, ‘She’s not angry, she’s more like the light of the prison,’” Brooks recently told The Guardian. “And right then I knew I wasn’t going to play the ‘angry black woman’, I was going to choose to show a different side of a woman who was incarcerated.”
“I will never play a stereotype, because I will always make sure I make choices that are rich and colorful and try to show more of a person than meets the eye,” she added.
Brooks also opened up to The Guardian about diversity in Hollywood and being drawn to work that has a social message.
On the importance of only working on projects that put inclusion first:
“I’m so grateful that I’m now at a point in my career where I can choose the work I want to do, because there was definitely a point where I couldn’t. Now I get to say, ‘I only want to work with people who are pushing the needle,’ and that doesn’t only mean with the storytelling, but also with directors, producers and creators.”
On why television ought to take on pressing social issues:
“The beauty of this is that Orange is the New Black can go into the home of some white boy in Wisconsin who has never heard of the Black Lives Matter movement, but he has fallen head over heels for this character named Poussey, and now he has been exposed to this movement. He now has a better sense of what’s going on in the world because of the stories we’re starting to tell…[And] that’s the power of art – it really does imitate life if you are conscious enough about it. I am thankful Jenji Kohan and the writers of Orange is the New Black are taking that stand instead of just giving us this fou-fou-fluff television to watch.
On the future of inclusion in the industry:
“When it comes to TV it’s a slow burn right now, but I think we’re doing it and we have to just stick with it. Right now I feel excited by the material I am seeing. From Queen Sugar on OWN to Atlanta on FX to Master of None on Netflix, there are a plethora of new shows that are coming out that have diverse groups of people in front of the camera and behind the scenes.”
On the need to diversify Broadway’s theater audience, who she believes is very white:
“We can do better with trying to have much more diverse audiences…The ideal for me would be a show where the audience is made up of people of all types, ages and colors who are coming to see it, but that’s not the case for most shows. I’m not sure if that’s a money thing or if it’s more of an issue of who people are publicizing these plays for, but it’s something I’m interested in: I want to focus on this issue of getting the audience to be more diverse.”
This is why we love this woman!
Read Brooks’ profile in its entirety here.