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Danielle Brooks to Play Iconic Gospel Singer Mahalia Jackson In Lifetime Movie

“Orange Is the New Black” actress Danielle Brooks has been tapped to play revered gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in a newly announced Lifetime movie.

The project is called “Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story” and will be produced by “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts as part of a four-film deal that Roberts signed with Lifetime. The story through Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions will be directed by Kenny Leon, director of Broadway’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Fences.”

Danielle Brooks (L) will play Mahalia Jackson (R) in a movie that will air on Lifetime. (Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage via Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images)

Referred to as the “Queen of Gospel,” Jackson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and began singing as a young child at Mount Moriah Baptist Church.

She scored her biggest hit with “Move On Up a Little Higher” in 1947, which sold millions of copies and burst open the door to mainstream success, as well as a global following. Jackson performed at Carnegie Hall, and, in 1961, she sang at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball.

The multiple Grammy Award winner was also a loyal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and sang at several demonstrations, including the March on Washington in 1963 where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It was there she sang “How I Got Over” and “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned.” She also sang at 1968 funeral for Dr. King.

Jackson died at age 60 from heart failure on January 27, 1972, at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois. The Lifetime movie will tell the story of her life and career.

“Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story” follows the major success of Lifetime’s “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel,” a film released in April that brought the network its highest ratings for an original movie since 2016, according to Deadline.

Brooks is coming off a successful six-year run as Taystee on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” which ended last year. She now lends her voice to HBO’s “Close Enough,” an animated series that began on July 9. The actress shared news of playing Jackson on Instagram Monday, Aug. 3.

“This one’s for the fam. ✨ #mahaliajacksonstory #mahaliajackson,” wrote Brooks, next to a split image of herself and the gospel legend.

“Having had the privilege of working with Kenny on ‘Steel Magnolias’ and Robin Roberts on ‘Stolen by My Mother,’ I am ecstatic to have them join forces to work together on this special project,” said Tanya Lopez in a press release, EVP of Movies, Limited Series & Original Movie Acquisitions for Lifetime and LMN. “Danielle Brooks as Mahalia is icing on the cake. This team is committed in celebrating the legacy of Mahalia and reintroducing her to a world that needs her spirit more than ever.”

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