‘GMA’ Co-Host Robin Roberts’ Upcoming TV Movie Features ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Alum Danielle Brooks
Robin Roberts is a renowned journalist with over 15 years at the news desk on Good Morning America, following her sportscasting gig on ESPN. Going behind the camera with her production company Rock’N Robin Productions, the GMA star is set to premiere her biopic on Mahalia Jackson on Lifetime.
Robin Roberts of ‘Good Morning America’ produces film for Lifetime
Roberts joined forces with Lifetime in 2018 to produce four films. After completing and airing Stolen By My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story in 2020, Roberts is bringing a biopic about gospel legend Mahalia Jackson to the cable channel.
Rock’N Roberts Productions partnered with Lincoln Square Productions, where Roberts and Linda Berman serve as executive producers. Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon directed the TV film.
Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia follows the singer’s life and career through her rise to becoming an icon in gospel music. The television movie also features Jackson’s work as a civil rights activist, including her performance at the 1963 March on Washington. Jackson has countless credits to her name, including the sale of millions of records and becoming the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Danielle Brooks of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ stars in the Lifetime movie
Orange Is the New Black alum Danielle Brooks stars in the title role. A Tony Award nominee, SAG, and Grammy Award winner, Brooks reunited with Leon for this Lifetime film after collaborating on an all-Black contemporary production of Much Ado About Nothing in New York.
“I just knew that I was going to be in good hands,” Brooks said at Lifetime’s CTAM Winter 2021 Press Tour in February 2021, according to Indiewire, noting the magnitude of the role. “When it came down to actually stepping into [Mahalia Jackson’s] shoes, I had to hang onto to faith, because I realized that I would have to sing all these songs.”
Specifically recruited by Roberts and Leon, Brooks used every resource possible to prepare for the part.
“It’s something that I’d been studying, watching every YouTube video of her, reading everything that I could possibly read, looking at pictures of her, because pictures can tell so many stories, and just soaking her up,” Brooks explained. “So when we started, I had to let go and trust the universe to do its thing and get out of the way, which is something that we’ve all had to do during this time.”
‘GMA’ star Robin Roberts ‘couldn’t be more grateful’ for the TV film
Roberts credited Lifetime with producing stories of substance. The GMA anchor noted how the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and finding someone capable of playing such an icon made the project stall at times.
“I partnered with Lifetime a few years ago, and what I appreciate about them is not quantity, it’s quality, and taking the time to find the right stories,” Roberts remarked. “We had this one for a little over a year, waiting for the right time, then COVID hit, and that slowed everything down. But I also think part of the hesitation in going forward with it was whether we could find the right actress to play Mahalia.”
When Leon named Brooks to play the title role, Roberts knew they were on the right track.
“Things started to speed up when Kenny said ‘Danielle Brooks’ ” – I get chills all over again just thinking about it — when he knew that he could have her, and the entire cast, many who knew each other, and the timing of it all,” Roberts recalled. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia premieres on Lifetime on April 3, 2021.