Danielle Brooks plays everyone’s favorite inmate, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on the critically acclaimed, juggernaut of a show, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. I spoke with Brooks about her audition for the show, working with Samira, (Wiley) and what we can look forward to with Taystee this season.
How was your audition for Taystee?
Danielle Brooks: My audition for Taystee was a lot of fun and not a lot of pressure because I was in the middle of doing another show, a theater gig so it took a little bit of the pressure off. The description said to not wear any makeup and to not look glamorous. I went in there with no makeup on and my hair brushed back in cornrows and I remember changing into a mouu- muu. And I went in and I auditioned and it said the character was light hearted and wasn’t mean or malicious in anyway. When they said that to me I knew this was the character for me because that was the direction I was taking Taystee regardless of the language of it. Most people would have played it a different way; I felt this was the character for me. She sang! The scene I auditioned for was the first scene of the season with Taystee in the shower scene with Piper. (Taylor Schilling) That was exciting for me too!
The scenes between you and Samira are so incredible and come off so natural. Do you both ever improvise in your scenes together?
We don’t improvise the scenes; there is a little room for creativity. The chemistry might be so strong because we’ve known each other for about seven years now. We both attended Julliard and Samira graduated a year ahead of me. So we’ve known each other for quite some time and I feel like that’s why it’s so easy to work with her and the chemistry is just there.
Do you have a favorite scene or line that you’ve done together?
Well my favorite scene with Poussey is at the end of the season when you find them in the library and Taystee just came back to prison. I just love how honest Poussey was with Taystee and I think that scene in particular lends itself to the behavior of Taystee in season two. So I think she took to heart that conversation, and for me getting to work with Samira on a scene that was much more dramatic than the others was a lot of fun.
When Taystee left the prison we saw that she really didn’t have anyone. Will we learn more about where she came from and who her family is?
You will definitely learn more about Taystee’s back-story in season two. I think it will be fun for the audience to get to know some of the details of who she is and the details that people have been longing to know about her. I feel like peoples questions will be answered and a few will still remain a mystery.
Was there a moment during the first season or a scene or line of dialogue that you did and you just knew this show was going to be huge?
Our slogan is “every sentence has a story” and that to me is incredible to be involved in a show where every sentence has a story. To me that means every person every human being has a story, and a lot of times in Hollywood a lot of stories are over looked and are not valued to the extent of stories we’ve heard a hundred times already. I was excited to be a part of something like that, especially as someone of color. To be playing someone that I felt could very easily slip into a stereotype but was not at all a stereotype. And that was exciting for me because I got to take on that challenge of bringing someone people think they know to life and showing them the beauty of that person.
You can watch Danielle in season two of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK on Netflix.
Victoria Nelli loves TV so much that she is paying $30,000 a year to learn about it in College. When she’s not learning about TV she enjoys writing about her favorite shows, interviewing anyone in the industry that will let her, and ranting about how underrated Parks and Recreation is. She is very much aware of her Netflix addiction, and no she will not be seeking help anytime soon. You can follow her on Twitter @VictoriaNelli