Danielle Brooks On How She Learned She Didn’t Have To Play The “Token Black Girl”

danielle Brooks
Kathryn Wirsing, ELLE.com

The latest season of Orange is the New Black premiered on Netflix this past weekend, so the ladies have been doing their promo rounds.  Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee, a fan favorite on the show, sat down with ELLE.com to talk about how difficult it was for her to land work after she graduated from Julliard.  She also discussed how she realized that playing the token black girl wasn’t her destiny.


“I’ve gotten rejected a lot. I’ve always said that actor years is like dog years, it feels like forever when you’re not working.  For me, I graduated around May 2011 and I booked Orange in September of 2012, so that’s a little over a year. A year of not having work! And I was auditioning a lot. My best friend slash roommate at the time would audition for a lot of the same things and a lot of the times she would book it over me. Mind you, we’re completely different black women, but that’s not how the world saw us. I’ve had to really come to terms with the world kind of grouping [black actors] into one individual when we’re so different. It wasn’t until getting Orange where I really saw, no, you don’t have to be that token black girl, that more than five not just Black women but other women of color can be series regulars. At the time, a lot of these networks and a lot of these theaters weren’t seeing it that way, so it made me feel like there wasn’t a place for me.”

On that one time she made money braiding hair:

“My best friend booked this show I really, really wanted and it was very tough for me because I wanted to be supportive of her and really live by that phrase, ‘when one wins, we all win.’ So, I had to go home for about a week and just kind of collect myself and remember why I wanted to get into this. I came back and I ended up braiding her hair for $25 for that show [laughs] $25 is nothing! It was a very humbling experience for me to put myself in that position, but the reason that I did that is because to me, that $25 continued to add on to the possibility of me living my dream. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your pride to really go after what you want. Now, I’m making way more than $25. I’m really grateful that the tables turned around.”

Read more of her interview on ELLE.com.

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