Danielle Brooks

Danielle Brooks

Danielle Brooks landed a role most acting graduates only dream of when she took on the part of Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson in the hit series "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix 2013-) just two years after graduating from Juilliard. Taystee was a bubbly, foul-mouthed inmate at a women's correctional facility who quickly became the show's breakout character. Brooks was born in Greenville, South Carolina. As the daughter of a minister and a deacon, she discovered her love of music and drama in the church, which helped to shape her future ambitions and moral center. She started acting in church plays at the age of six and was inspired to try out for Juilliard School after seeing a powerful performance of "The Color Purple" on Broadway. To her surprise, she nailed the audition and graduated from the prestigious drama school in 2011. After graduating, she found herself juggling two roles: one in the Shakespeare Theater Company production of "The Servant of Two Masters" (2012) and the other in "Blacken the Bubble" (2012). While her stage work suited her formal training at school, she ended up having to leave both productions for the opportunity to appear on the Netflix dramedy. Initially slated to only appear in a few episodes, her interpretation of the character impressed the show's creator, Jenji Kohan (previously responsible for creating the series "Weeds" (Showtime 2005-2012)) and was announced as a series regular. Based on Piper Kerman's memoir about her time spent in prison for money laundering and the subsequent relationships she forged with her fellow inmates, "Orange Is The New Black" struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. Brooks prepared for the role by studying Kerman's book and watching countless hours of the show "Beyond Scared Straight" (A&E 2011-). The show also reunited her with her friend of six years and fellow Julliard alum Samira Wiley, who played Taystee's enemy turned soulmate Poussey. Bringing a vivacious energy to the role, Brooks described her character as the light inside the prison. Brooks also became the first African-American female character on the show "Girls" (HBO 2012-17), making a guest star appearance in the show's third season. Brooks also appeared in an episode of Aziz Ansari's sitcom "Master of None" (Netflix 2015-) and took on a voice role in the animated hit "The Angry Birds Movie" (2016) while continuing her work on "Orange is the New Black."


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