Mahalia Jackson

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Lifetime previously enjoyed both strong ratings and critical acclaim for its film on the Clark Sisters, so they’re hoping the same thing happens this weekend with the debut of “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.” This is a long-awaited production covering the life of the woman many consider the finest individual vocalist in gospel music history. She also was extremely active in the Civil Rights Movement, both with personal appearances and through monetary contributions.

There’s quite a prolific cast involved. SAG Award and Grammy Award-winning actress Danielle Brooks (“Orange is the New Black”) has the title role. She’s joined by by Jason Dirden (“Fences”), Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango (“Slave Play”), Olivia Washington (“The Butler”) and Rob Demery (“Lovecraft Country”).

Dirden plays Russell Roberts, a music-loving reverend who falls for Jackson when they first meet in the late 1940s. Kalukango takes on the role of Mildred, her longtime pianist. Washington portrays Estelle, a piano teacher Jackson meets at church who goes on to become her lifelong friend, and Demery portrays Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” is executive produced by Robin Roberts and Linda Berman under Roberts’ Rock’n Robin Productions. Lincoln Square Productions is also part of the project. Leon and Brooks are co-executive producers on the film.

The film has its premiere screening at 7 p.m. Sunday.