Danielle Brooks to portray gospel legend Mahalia Jackson in Lifetime’s Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story. Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon, who helmed the all-Black remake of Steel Magnolias, will direct, and previously worked with Brooks on a 2019 stage production of Much Ado About Nothing.
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The Mahalia Jackson Story will trace Jackson’s life and career as she became arguably the best known gospel singer in the mid-20th century and a civil rights activist who sang at the 1963 March on Washington. Her recording of the song “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies, skyrocketing her to international fame. She sold millions of records and was the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall. She also sang at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball in 1961.
Jackson was an active supporter of the Civil Rights movement, singing at rallies like the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Having had the privilege of working with Kenny [Leon] 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,” Tanya Lopez, Executive VP movies, Limited Series and Original Movie Acquisitions for Lifetime and LMN said in a statement. “Adding Danielle Brooks as Mahalia is icing on the cake. This team is committed in celebrating the legacy of Mahalia. [As well as] reintroducing her to a world that needs her spirit more than ever.”
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This announcement comes on the heels of the network’s highly successful The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel. It had over 2.7 million viewers, making it Lifetime’s biggest same-day audience for an original movie in four years.
It also serves as the first of four films, Robin Roberts is going to develop for Lifetime.
The Good Morning America anchor’s first project with the network was Stolen by My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story. She also produced and hosted a documentary special based on the real-life case.
The pic comes from Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions. Roberts will executive produce alongside Linda Berman.
The biopic is still in the early stages, we’ll update you as more news comes out.