Danielle Brooks on Being 'Tasytee' and Staying Grounded<br />
[INTERVIEW]

Danielle Brooks

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in South Carolina with a father who is a minister and a mother who is a deacon. Is it hard to maintain your moral center as a young actress?

DB: I think at first it is very difficult because you just want to work. So sometimes you feel like, ‘Well maybe I can compromise what my morals are.’ Luckily because of my background and because of my parents and the way they raised me, and the team I have, they all are helping me to realize that it’s OK to say ‘no’ to projects.

EBONY: What types of projects won’t you do?

DB: My biggest thing is telling a truthful story, something that is rooted in something and is very honest. If I read a script and you want me to take off my top and it doesn’t serve a purpose, then I’m not going to do it. In the first scene of Orange Is the New Black, I had to be topless but there was a purpose for it. I’m in a shower and that’s what women do in prison. I didn’t feel violated at all. It wasn’t a mockery. It wasn’t a joke because I don’t take my body as a joke. As long it’s rooted in truth, I’m cool with doing it, as long as I don’t jeopardize myself and my self-worth and don’t feel bad at the end of the day. I feel like I’m in the position to be careful with the projects that I choose. It’s OK to be selective now.

EBONY: Taystee and fellow Litchfield inmate Poussey [actress Samira Wiley] have such a sweet friendship on the show. Was that written in or was it something that developed?

DB: It has been such a pleasure working with Samira. We both went to Julliard and we’ve been friends for six years now. Getting to work with her has been such a treat because we actually really enjoy each other’s company. Our relationship is very similar to Poussey and Taystee’s. We’re very honest with each other in real life.

EBONY: Have fans been coming up to you left and right?

DB: Taystee is such a likeable person. A lot of people will come up to me as if they’ve known me for years. Yesterday I had a police officer stop me and ask me for a picture and that was kind of cool.

EBONY: Has it been overwhelming at all?

DB: It’s weird with releasing all the material at once. This being the beginning of my career it happened so fast. I was in a press tour in Brazil and then when I came back,  people were like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Taystee.’ It’s definitely challenged me to stay grounded and humble—which I will never not do—and [to] stay grateful. I’m very grateful for my fans, which is so weird to say now. A lot of Black women come up to me and say they’re happy to see someone like myself with natural hair and dark skin and who is my size. It’s just cool.

EBONY: What’s next for you?

DB: Of course you’re going to get to see a lot of Taystee in season two and I just shot an episode of ‘Girls’ for HBO. I will be the first Black woman to be on ‘Girls,’ so that’s exciting for me. Other than that I just don’t know. I’m hoping Melissa McCarthy will hit a sister up.