Orange is the New Black is filled with an amazing cast who all play characters we obsess over. It’s no wonder the show began as the most viewed ever of original Netflix series when the first season premiered in 2013. Many of the characters are also played by actors whom we’ve never seen before, or who have very small roles. Every season, interesting new characters are introduced, and we get to obsess all over again. But when asking fans of the show who their favorite character really is, Taystee seems to be a popular pick.
What’s not to love about Taystee? She’s fun, outgoing, charming, and overall, just brightens the screen whenever she makes an appearance. She’s a very complex character, and is much more than all of the stereotypes that surround her. She’s an underdog, and fans are often rooting for characters like hers. While watching the series, we get a deep look into her backstory, learning that she came from a broken home and fell under the influence of the season two villain, Vee, at a very young age.
We love watching her onscreen friendship with another one of our favorites, Poussey, and enjoy watching her play out her role as the new prison mother in season three. We even wept with her as she struggled through a tragedy at the end of season four. While it’s hard to find something wrong with Taystee, it’s even harder to find something not to like about the actress who plays her- Danielle Brooks! Here are 15 things you might not have known about Danielle Brooks.
15. She Graduated From Juilliard In 2011
She attended the Governor’s School for Arts and Humanity (South Carolina) in her last two years of high school, and she then went on to attend college at Juilliard. While in high school, Danielle had to audition in order to get into the Governor’s School. She was unprepared for the audition, and admitted she didn’t even know what a monologue was! Luckily, she was still accepted, and her education at the arts school was a huge aid in her getting into Juilliard. She said she knew very little about the school before attending, but knew of and admired some alumni, such as Nicole Beharie and Patina Miller. She stated that she found out she got in while in the middle of class at her high school. She ran to the bathroom to accept the phone call, and in all the excitement accidentally ran into the bathroom. She didn’t care though; she was beyond excited to get accepted into such a prestigious fine arts school.
14. She Attended Juilliard With Her Costar Samira Wiley
Brooks also met Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey on Orange is the New Black, while attending Juilliard. They became best friends while attending school, and have remained just as close ever since, now being able to play fictional best friends on the Netflix series. The two were inseparable in college, and have been since, often being spotted in public together. Going to school together has given them an amazing opportunity to be able to produce amazing on screen chemistry. Both give outstanding performances, probably due to the fact that in certain aspects of their friendship on the show, they don’t even have to act! They both state that they’re very similar to their actual characters in the show, in that Taystee is very bright, and can bring positive energy into any situation, and Samira is very honest and straightforward. A show with just these two would be plenty to satisfy audiences.
13. She Was On Broadway In The Color Purple
Danielle had been in a handful of theater productions before her onscreen debut as Taystee in OITNB while she attended college and high school, but after the start of the show, she found herself back on stage in The Color Purple. She was able to work with some of her idols as well – people that she had always looked up to before making it big. It was an amazing opportunity for her, as it showcased her talents in both comedy and drama, as well as her abilities to work it behind a camera, and in front of a large live audience. Her Broadway debut also landed her a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Being nominated for such an amazing award at a young age and with a short list of experiences shows there’s no doubt that Danielle will continue to do amazing things throughout her career.
12. She Plays Aziz Ansari’s Agent In Master of None
Orange is the New Black isn’t the only Netflix series you’ll find Danielle on. She made an appearance in the role of Aziz Ansari’s agent in Master of None. She only appears on one episode of the series, but we still couldn’t help but get overly excited when seeing her on another great Netflix series we love. The show has received many nominations as well, even in its first year of production. It proves that Danielle does nothing less than amazing work. Danielle stated that she very much enjoyed working with Aziz, as he has a large creative mind and is passionate about including diversity on screen. She states that being able to work in an environment that strives to be diverse is very exciting to her. Though she was only on one episode, her character was still very likeable and important in the show, which means there is a hopeful chance she might make a return on the series.
11. She Was Only Supposed To Be On Two Episodes Of Orange is the New Black
She was originally supposed to only appear on two episodes of the series, just enough to showcase her backstory. But she ended up being written into the show more and makes plenty of appearances throughout the first season. When first auditioning for the show, she was only given one page of the script. Even though she had originally thought that the show was only going to give her a small role, she was still extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity. She also explained how she rose to fame almost overnight, stating that, all of a sudden people were recognizing her on the street as Taystee. Danielle often states in interviews how extremely blessed she is, and that sometimes the fame is still surreal to her. She ended up becoming a series regular at the beginning of season 2, and we’re sure as the series continually expands, Danielle will play an important role on the show.
10. She Grew Up In A Religious Family
Danielle grew up in South Carolina, where her mother is a minister and her father is a deacon. Though she has some racy moments on the Netflix series, her family still loves her role on the show and show nothing but support for her. Her father even enjoys going out in public with her because he loves the fan recognition! Her very first play was when she was only 6-years-old, and it was a church performance. After the show, everyone stated that she had done an amazing job, and it gave her the courage to continue on to pursue her dream of acting. She was very active in the church community in her home life, and she gives that much of the credit when it comes to her amazing acting career. She often states how humbled she is by all of the blessings she’s been given; a noble characteristic she was probably taught by her religion and background.
9. She Was In An Episode Of Girls
Danielle can be seen in another small role on the HBO series, Girls. She plays a member of a rehab facility that one of the leads, Jessa, is attending. At one point in the show, Jessa suggests that her character may be a lesbian, which is something that offends Danielle’s character. Later in the show, however, she and Jessa get caught in prohibited sexual behavior in the rehab facility, getting them both kicked out. It was her one and only episode on the show, but it was important, as Danielle was the first African-American woman to have a role on the show. Lena Dunham was often criticized for the lack of diversity on the series, so Danielle’s role was much anticipated, and something she definitely lived up to! Danielle stated that when she auditioned for the role, she found herself crying in the audition room, as she was a big fan of Lena Dunham’s and had trouble coming to terms with the amazing opportunity she’d been given.
8. She’s Friends With Designer Christian Siriano
Christian Siriano is an American fashion designer who first gained popularity after winning season 4 of Project Runway. He’s recently made headlines again as being one of the few designers to step forward and offer to design a dress for Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the new Ghostbusters remake. Leslie was having difficulty finding anyone to make a dress for her, but Christian contacted her and ended up making her look absolutely stunning for the premiere! It turns out he’s also close with our beloved Danielle! She walked in one of his shows for his Lane Bryant collaboration, which featured many other beautiful plus-sized women as well as women of color. The designer was recently married, and Danielle was spotted as one of the guests. There was even a video surfacing of her singing at the wedding! There were many other amazing celebs at the wedding, making it something we definitely wish we were a part of!
7. She Still Experiences Racism Firsthand
Recently Danielle made headlines after tweeting about firsthand racism she experienced from airline staff. After boarding a plane using her first class tickets, a flight attendant told her she was “lucky” to be taking first class. The only “lucky” person in that scenario is the flight attendant; not many people get the chance to meet let alone talk to our beloved Taystee in person! Danielle has stated many times how grateful she is for the opportunities she’s been given, but that doesn’t mean she still didn’t work hard to get where she is! She also especially deserves to treat herself every once in a while, and doesn’t need to be told by rude staff that she’s lucky, an assumption made only by her appearance. Many of her fans came to her aide, however, and offered her plenty of support, something that’s common among the OITNB community!
6. She Faced A Lot Of Rejection In The Beginning
Danielle graduated from Juilliard around May of 2011, and didn’t get her first big role on Orange is the New Black until September 2012. She says, herself, that actor years are like dog years, and it can feel like forever as an actor when going without work. She stated she had numerous auditions in the year between college and Orange, but nothing that she landed. It is also inspiring of her to not have given up! She stated it can be very challenging for her, as many of the parts she had come across were that for a very stereotypical portrayal of an African-American woman, and she wanted a complex character, and someone who broke the stereotypes. We’re happy they said no though, so we can have our beloved Taystee on one of our favorite Netflix series! Taystee is definitely a character worth waiting for.
5. She Is A Voice For Body Positivity
Danielle has never seemed ashamed of her body, and has always flaunted her beautiful curves! She started her own body positivity hashtag, #voiceofthecurves. One of her very first scenes as Taystee on Orange is the New Black was topless! The show is often noted for its positive body portrayal, as there are many overweight and curvy women with large roles on the show. Taystee is one of those characters and isn’t afraid to stand up for people who rock bodies like hers. She often posts pictures of herself in bikinis, and photos of herself working out and is never afraid to bare it all. She is often praised for staying positive about her body, and showing that you can work out often but still be overweight. She believes everyone should love themselves the way they are and encourages her fans to love every part of their body, curves, cellulite, rolls, and all!
4. She Once Braided Hair For Only $25
Before making it big on Orange, she once braided hair for a show for only $25! After one of her friends booked a show she had desperately wanted, she decided to find a way to be supportive and offered up her hair braiding skills. She stated that it was a very difficult time for her, as she was not getting any work as an actor, but her friends around her were. It was something that can be very difficult for a young actor, but luckily Danielle persisted through the tough times and worked hard to get her spot on Orange is the New Black. Now making much more than $25, she still sees the experience as humbling, and uses it as a reminder to do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams. She never stated who the woman was, but I bet she’s more than a little jealous of Danielle’s extreme career jump!
3. She Is A Huge Supporter For BLM
She has not been shy about her support for the #blacklivesmatter movement, often showing support on her social media pages. She’s shown an outpouring of support in the recent Alton Sterling and Philando Castile cases, and started many conversations about the issue on Twitter. Although she still receives some hate back on her stance, she’s still not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. It’s awesome she’s using her fame to address so many social issues! Not only does she support that, but she’s also a big supporter of LGBT rights, and joined her cast members for a celebration in New York’s Pride Parade. The show is often noted for its progressive view and desire to be inclusive, so it’s not too surprising that Danielle is a supporter of these things, but it still makes her that much more of a role model and likable person overall.
2. She Loves Playing Underdogs The Most
Though she came from a conservative background, flawed characters who aren’t afraid to show their damaged side are her favorite to play. She loves exploring characters who are very realistic, and enjoys portraying Taystee because she feels there are many girls out there like the Orange Is The New Black character and that they can learn something from her portrayal on the show. Often times, the type of people that are portrayed on the show are looked down upon because of their criminal history. Amazing actors like Danielle give a voice to these characters, and show that there’s much more to them than their orange jumpsuits. This is something Danielle strives to achieve in her acting roles, and something she is very happy to be a part of. She loves using her talent and fame to give viewers a glimpse into a character that they might not normally know much about.
1. Her Net Worth Is Estimated At $1 million
Danielle sure has come a very long way from braiding hair for $25! With only one lead television series role, one major Broadway role, and several other small and short appearances in various other productions, there’s no doubt that Danielle has done an amazing job in building her career since graduating from Juilliard. She uses her fame to discuss important social issues and has an overall positive and charming personality. Danielle has proven that she never gave up on her dream, and it truly paid off. She worked hard to get herself into great schools that gave her an amazing education, and she persisted through a dry spurt of not getting any roles or auditions. With a huge net worth and only two major roles under her belt, there seems to be a lot of amazing things in Danielle’s bright future. We can only imagine what great things she’ll do from here!