Claim to fame Stars as Taystee on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black; currently appearing as Sofia in The Color Purple on Broadway
Base New York
Adweek: What's the first information you consume in the morning?
Danielle Brooks: Most of the time, it's Twitter. It's an easy way to get the news and know what's going on in the world. There's also this newsletter called theSkimm that I read. I love it because their headlines are so up to date with my generation [laughs], and it talks about really complicated subjects but in terms that I understand. And then after that, I'll hit Instagram.
Who do you follow on Instagram?
I love following plus-size models like Precious Lee, Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday. I also follow a lot of pages about fitness or detoxing and healthy eating because that's kind of where I am right now with spring, summer coming [laughs]. I follow all my girls from Orange. And I love BeBeautifulLA, who posts beautiful pictures of black women showing off stretch marks or wearing full African garb or naked, but done tastefully. She also posts beautiful poems about loving yourself and your body.
You post a lot of great body-positive selfies on Instagram, too.
I don't think I even recognized I was doing it at first. It started with just posting a photo from a magazine shoot or something like that, and people really liked it. It wasn't coming from a place of, like, "Let me show off my curves like all these Instagram girls!" It just so happened that I realized that there were so many women and men out there looking for a voice that was willing to share their body in a positive way—not in this Vibe Vixen way or a way that was overly sexualized, but in a way that was honest and not apologetic. And I thought they were dope pictures!
What TV shows do you watch?
I have a lot of guilty pleasure shows. I love American Idol. I'm a little upset it's going away, but I think it's time [laughs]. I like Atlanta Plastic, this reality show about plastic surgery in Atlanta, and Bring It, about these girls who do hip-hop majorette dancing. I also love anything from Shonda Rhimes. Empire is killing it. Last Man Standing is a great show. And People v. O.J. is everything.
Taystee, your character on OITNB, was originally only supposed to be in a few episodes but instead ended up becoming a major part of the show. Why do you think she resonates so much with viewers?
I think it's because she says whatever she wants to. She brings a different color, a different way of showing life in prison versus what people are used to seeing. Taystee really is the joy of the prison. And there are so many layers to her character, especially later on when you discover why she is the way that she is and why she tries to find so much joy in this place. I think that for the audience, that's exciting because it's not just another "angry black woman" without any depth. That's something that people can relate to.
Earlier this year, you were on a crazy 4 a.m. to 12 a.m. schedule while shooting OITNB and starting The Color Purple. Have things calmed down?
Things have calmed down. I did that for about two or three months. It was a very crucial time because it was my first time doing a Broadway show, which is enough pressure, not to mention the type of material that we were starting to get into for Orange. But now I'm chilling, doing one job! I won't go back to double duty probably until late summer. And at least now it'll be a little easier because The Color Purple will have been in my body.
This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.