Danielle Brooks: Taystee Delight
A burgeoning Hollywood starlet armed with street smarts and an Ivy league education transforms into scene-stealing divalicious convict.
You can’t really understand how truly gifted she is until you chop it up with her for a few minutes off-camera — naked-faced, beaming, and sweet as a slice of pecan pie. It’s hard to imagine someone as friendly as Danielle Brooks taking on the role of a potty-mouthed, in-your-face, don’t-eff-with-me convict. Fresh-faced and Julliard trained, this Southern belle is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone and play your heartstrings like a harp. We know her as OITNB’s beloved bully, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a leader of sorts at Litchfield Penitentiary, where the social infrastructure is dictated by race, reputation and inside connections.
Despite having one of the bleakest character arcs, ironically, it’s Danielle’s light-hearted and soulful rendition that make her the most relatable. She’s the “around-the-way” girl everyone knows; the one you vote for in school elections and save a seat for in the cafeteria. Peel away the bravado, dissect her squishy insides, and you’ll find a layer defined by a close friendship with Poussey Washington (played by real-life friend Samira Wiley) and an unstable existence outside of prison walls.
Fortunately, Danielle’s off-screen adolescence didn’t include foster homes or legal troubles. Raised by a loving and supportive family, Brooks always predicted a career in show business, but not one with such a smooth takeoff. Since leaving two stage productions to film Orange, Danielle is now one of the most sought after brown girls in Hollywood with future projects that include a stint as the first African-American character on Girls.
It can be a challenge keeping the ego in check throughout such an extraordinary journey, but in Danielle’s case, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Warm, outgoing and boundlessly energetic—even on Sunday at the crack of dawn—Danielle’s humble demeanor and southern charm fill the room (without overcrowding it) as she not only greets her OITNB co-stars, but introduces herself to everyone in the room. Not afraid to mingle and chat between shots, our interview felt more like a girly gabfest than an interrogation. Looks this ex-con is leaving the cross-examinations to her alter ego.