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Danielle Brooks on Being the Sole Oscar Nominee for ‘The Color Purple’: “I’m Doing This for Everybody”

It was 2:30 a.m. for Danielle Brooks when she got the call that she had been nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in The Color Purple.

Brooks is in New Zealand currently working on the Minecraft movie and had her phone on “do not disturb” while the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning. When her husband and 4-year-old daughter called and told her she did it, she was almost certain she knew what they were talking about but wanted to hear the exact words.

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The actress’ nod for Sofia (a role she also received a Tony nomination for when she was in the Broadway production) marks the only Oscar nod for The Color Purple. While Brooks says she’s honored and humbled to represent the film in such a big way, she notes she didn’t do it alone.

“No one can do a project by themselves,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I did not get here on my own. I can’t act by myself. I’m surely not holding boom mics and picking out costumes and doing choreography on my own. So, I just I just feel like I’m doing this for everybody. I’m hoping that we can garner a win for the efforts of everybody that was a part of this beautiful production.”

Brooks is up against Emily Blunt (Oppenheimer), America Ferrera (Barbie), Jodie Foster (Nyad)
and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) for the best supporting actress Academy Award at the March 10 ceremony in Los Angeles.

Below, Brooks shares her thoughts on the Oscar nomination, how The Color Purple has been the gift that keeps on giving and how Sofia taught her to own her power and validate herself, which is something she says she didn’t have when she first entered the industry.

Congratulations on the nomination! How are you feeling?

Oh my God. Yes, thank you. I feel like The Color Purple has been the gift that keeps on giving. I am in awe of this moment that I’m living in. I’m living in it. It’s not a dream. It’s crazy.

Yeah, absolutely. I can only imagine what you’re feeling right now. What were you doing when you found out the news?

Sleeping. I’m in New Zealand. When the news dropped, it was 2:30 in the morning. I thought I had put my phone off “do not disturb,” but it went back on “do not disturb” in the middle of the night, so I fell asleep. My husband is the only one who can get to me on “do not disturb,” so he called and told me, “You did it, babe. You did it.” My daughter’s 4, she’s like, “Mommy, you did it.” And then a part of me is like, “I think I know what you’re talking about, but can somebody say it?” So, he said I was Oscar-nominated, and then I turned on the ringer or whatever, and my phone just blew up. I have over like 200 text messages at this point.

How are you planning on celebrating?

Going to work. I’m over here in Minecraft world. So, I’m gonna go to work and learn some combat today, but I kind of feel like that’s the best gift is to get to continue to do what I love. I’m just over the moon that I get to do this, especially just after the years we’ve had, with the strike and, before that, being quarantined, all this stuff. There’s been so many challenges as an actor, so to get to go straight into work, I’m just grateful. I’m just like pinching myself. The 15-year-old in me is doing cartwheels and backflips and somersaults, and I can’t do any of those things, so I just have a clear vision in my head of me doing those things that I can’t do. It’s just a lot to be grateful for today.

You also played Sofia on Broadway, which you received a Tony nomination for. How did you adapt to playing her on the big screen?

There’s a lot of changes that were made, but to me, it opened up Pandora’s box. It’s almost like a coloring box. When you do it on Broadway, there’s a lot of exploration you get to use with your imagination. We just had a wooden stage and chairs, so that’s truly what we had to lean on, was our imagination. But getting to actually have all of the elements that I needed to play her, to actually be in a juke joint and to have a baby in my hand and to feel the Georgia sun, to be on a plantation. Not having to do so much imaginative work was incredible.

With the film, everything was open to me, especially because my director Blitz [Bazawule] was so generous in allowing me the freedom to do the things that I really wanted to do. So, the specificity just got deeper. He would ask me to come through a door, and I was able to say, “Well, I think Sofia would bust that door open with her foot,” and he helped me rig the door open to do that. There were just so many moments where I got to make the choices of Sofia, but I know that came because I’ve studied her so diligently for years. I’ve continued to read the book. I played her for a year on Broadway, and then with this, I auditioned for six months before getting the role. So, there’s so much work that I put in to get to this point and not only with the character but personal work of who I am.

I’ve been able to kind of be a Sofia in the sense of owning my power now that I didn’t have when I first entered the industry, when I first came on the scene as Taystee [in Orange Is the New Black]. That was something that I was really struggling with, my place and knowing who I was and where I fit, and playing Sofia has been the greatest gift, to own my power and validate myself and know who I am. That’s what I’ve learned from her. So, I just hope people watch the film, women watch the film and feel inspired and feel like they can step into their power the same way Sofia does. If you lose that, too, which happens in life, we all have moments of having to rediscover who we are and having moments where we fall and need to get back up. I just hope people, when they see Sofia, they know it’s possible.

You are the sole nomination for The Color Purple. How does it feel to represent the musical in this way?

I feel very humbled by all of it. No one can do a project by themselves. I do not stand alone. There’s so many cast and crew who made this possible. It’s crazy to think about, in 1985, they had 11 nominations, and Steven Spielberg wasn’t even included as director at that time, and there were no wins, and that’s one of the most iconic movies of the cinematic canon, of American cinema. To now have this beautiful piece of art that we’ve created with this Blitz Bazawule version and only have one nomination, I’m very humbled by it, but I don’t stand alone. I did not get here on my own. I can’t act by myself. I’m surely not holding boom mics and picking out costumes and doing choreography on my own. So, I just I just feel like I’m doing this for everybody. I’m hoping that we can garner a win for the efforts of everybody that was a part of this beautiful production.

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