Danielle Brooks Channels Oprah’s Voice Unintentionally: ‘It Just Happened!’

Danielle Brooks Channels Oprah’s Voice Unintentionally: ‘It Just Happened!’ : Having Oprah Winfrey as a guiding force is truly as remarkable as one might think.
Danielle Brooks can attest to this, having collaborated closely with Winfrey to promote “The Color Purple,” currently showing in theaters. In this cinematic adaptation, Brooks, renowned for her role in “Orange Is the New Black,” masterfully portrays the fiery character of Sofia. Sofia, a woman of strength, stands up against her husband, Harpo (played by Corey Hawkins), while motivating her friend Celie (portrayed by Fantasia Barrino) to confront her oppressive spouse, Mister (acted by Colman Domingo).
Interestingly, Winfrey herself took on the role of Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s initial 1985 film rendition and later took the helm as a producer for the 2005 Broadway rendition. For Brooks, 34, her journey with this character began with a 2015 revival performance, a portrayal that garnered her a well-deserved Tony Award nomination.

“She’s been a guiding presence for me throughout this journey, ensuring that my unique essence also shines through,” Brooks reflects. “Working closely with her has felt like a dream. Often, I find myself observing her mannerisms so keenly that my friends tease me, saying, ‘You’re beginning to sound just like her!’ You know how Oprah has that distinct way of elongating her words, like ‘I am Opraah!’ or emphasizing ‘The Color Purple!’? I’ve unknowingly started to adopt that style – it took my friends pointing it out for me to realize. But truly, if there’s anyone’s path worth emulating, it’s Oprah’s.”

Similar to Winfrey’s achievements, Brooks seems poised to secure her debut Oscar nomination for director Blitz Bazawule’s rendition of “Color Purple,” especially after receiving nominations for best supporting actress from both the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards. She discusses the experience of revisiting the character of Sofia on screen and highlights the influence of her husband, Dennis Gelin, on shaping her performance.

Question: After a Year as Sofia on Broadway and a Six-Month Film Audition, What Were Your Thoughts?

There were instances when I questioned, “Why do I continuously need to validate myself?” My skills remain intact; my passion persists, and I pride myself on being collaborative. Initially, I was perplexed by the prolonged process. However, an insight from someone at my agency shed light on the situation: “They aim to ensure that those involved in previous versions of ‘The Color Purple’ are genuinely receptive to Blitz’s unique perspective on the narrative.” This resonated with me. After all, there’s an inherent sentimentality attached when one has been involved with a project. As individuals of color deeply connected to this narrative, we hold certain aspects in reverence and are cautious about modifications.

It’s been eight years since your previous portrayal of Sofia on stage. How did you approach the character differently this time?

The complexity of Sofia’s character has deepened for me over time due to life experiences. By dedicating myself to another individual, I’ve gained a deeper comprehension of the dynamics between Harpo and Sofia, recognizing their struggles to preserve their marriage and combat inherited challenges.
a significant aspect of my preparation involved connecting with my ancestors and engaging in dialogues with those who have passed on, including my grandmother, godmother, and several friends. This process aided me in understanding the underlying motivations behind Sofia. It’s not solely about individual experiences but also about recognizing and honoring those who have influenced and shaped you through this narrative.

You recently posted an endearing video of your 4-year-old daughter, Freeya, reacting to “The Color Purple” trailer. Has she had the chance to view additional clips or listen to the soundtrack?

She viewed me on “CBS Mornings” alongside Oprah. Her pride was evident as she exclaimed, “I saw my Mommy on TV!” While it’s heartwarming, she has a way of grounding you as well. When I asked her about my appearance on TV, she simply remarked, “It was okay.”

Did you attempt to secure a cameo for her in the film?

We dressed her up in the appropriate hair and costume, and she was genuinely enthusiastic. Upon arriving on set, she met Oprah and shared affectionate moments with Fantasia. Everything seemed perfect. Her role was simple: to move into Fantasia’s embrace during the scene. However, when Blitz signaled “Action,” she resisted, asserting, “Don’t touch me!” Given it was naptime, things didn’t align, leading them to cast a young boy instead. As a mother, it was disappointing, but I’ll hold onto those photos to playfully remind her of the missed opportunity in the future! (Laughs.)

As you prepare for the upcoming months filled with awards shows, how are you ensuring you remain grounded and not overwhelmed?

I prioritize my faith and grounding. By this, I mean strengthening my core values: maintaining closeness with my family, seeking therapy when needed, and enjoying simple moments like watching movies with my daughter. We even enjoyed a lighthearted film, “Candy Cane Lane,” just yesterday — it’s a bit on the cheesy side! (Laughs.) It’s about revisiting fundamental aspects and recognizing life’s true priorities. With the incredible experiences unfolding, I’m diligently journaling to capture every detail, from scents to outfits, ensuring I remember these moments vividly.

It resonates with the essence of “The Color Purple”: overlooking the beauty of life, like passing by a field of purple without truly seeing it. I aim to be fully present and attentive because these moments swiftly come and go. While the desire for awards is real, I ponder: What’s the aftermath, whether I achieve them or not? Would I allow such meaningful moments to slip away unnoticed? That’s not an option for me. Thus, I’m immersing myself in each experience, cherishing every bit of it — that’s my approach.

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