Without a Mahalia Jackson opened the doors for Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Beyoncé. A bold statement, right?
Well, once Robin Roberts drops the new biopic about the gospel legend, the world will know just how important this singer was to popular culture.
In the Lifetime film, “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia Jackson,” Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks was picked to bring her epic story to life.
Robert’s Mahalia is part fiction and part factual, tracing over four decades on her journey to becoming the “Queen of Gospel.” While Robert’s Rock’n Robin is the production company behind the feature, it is Tony Award-winning Kenny Leon that was tasked to direct it.
This will not be the first time that Brooks and Leon have worked together. When she starred in the Public Theatre’s “Much Ado About Nothing” for the Shakespeare in the Park series in New York City, the True Colors’ founder took the steering wheel leading the play to its success.
Brooks told Indiewire, “When it came down to actually stepping into [Mahalia Jackson’s] shoes, I had to hang onto faith because I realized that I would have to sing all these songs.”
“But it’s something that I’d been studying,” she continued. “[I started] watching every YouTube video of her, reading everything that I could possibly read, looking at pictures of her, because pictures can tell so many stories, and just soaking her up. So when we started, I had to let go and trust the universe to do its thing and get out of the way, which is something that we’ve all had to do during this time.”
But why is she important?
She was a civil rights leader, lending her voice and becoming a confidant to Martin Luther King, Jr. (encouraging him to use Prathia Hall’s refrain “I have a dream.” She is reported to have said, “Tell ‘em about the dream Martin.”
Her single, “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies back when that was unheard of for a Black church singer. Her version of “Precious Lord” still Her distinguishable voice and her unwavering commitment to serve her people afforded her a historic performance spot at the 1963 March on Washington, a racially integrated audience at Carnegie Hall, and at President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball.
“Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia Jackson” will premiere Saturday, April 3 at 8 pm ET/PT, marking the 53rd year since Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 on Lifetime available on Philo.