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Danielle Brooks reveals how 'the ancestors' and 'Orange Is the New Black' got her ready for 'The Color Purple'

Brooks first played the part in 2015, and said Sofia had lessons for her both times.
/ Source: TODAY

Danielle Brooks says she’s "owning" her power as Sofia in the 2023 iteration of “The Color Purple.”

Brooks is reprising the role she played on Broadway in 2015, which led to her winning a Grammy for best musical theater album and her first Tony nomination for best actress in a musical.

Sofia starts off "The Color Purple" brazen and smart-mouthed, a contrast to shy Celie (Fantasia) — but that changes after she is assaulted and put behind bars. Brooks says it took soul-searching to authentically channel the devoted mother's journey.

Brooks tells that her character’s emotional jail scene — during which Celie visits and brings a withdrawn and mute Sofia a plate of soul food — wasn’t unfamiliar territory.

In fact, the actor-singer says it felt reminiscent to the her time on the award-winning Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” when she played Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, an inmate serving time in a women’s prison. 

“Even if I didn’t realize it, I’m sure there were parts of (Taystee's) pain that I bring into this as well,” says Brooks.

Aside from channeling her "OITNB" character, whom she played for six seasons, Brooks says she also leaned on those who came before her.

“It was really the ancestors that were there with me,” she says. “You know, sharing their stories, whispering them in my ear that reminded me, or helped me, to find that moment.”

Danielle Brooks in "The Color Purple."
Danielle Brooks in "The Color Purple."Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Brooks also reflects on the journey it took for her to get to "The Color Purple."

“When I played (Sofia) in 2015, it was about learning my power and now playing it  … however many years later, this time it’s been about owning the power,” she says. “And that’s where I’m living in now, that’s what I take from Sofia  — is owning my power.”

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. Brooks, who’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe for her magnetic performance in the film, says she's focused on keeping her power close to her, adding, “And when I lose it, I can find it again.”

“The Color Purple,” also starring Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, hits theaters nationwide on Dec. 25.