Lifetime to premiere biopic on life of gospel music legend Mahalia Jackson

"Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia" will premiere April 3 at 8pm/7c only on Lifetime, 2021 |

Lifetime has released the trailer for its highly anticipated gospel biopic, “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia,” which will showcase the singer's impact in gospel music and as a civil rights trailblazer.

Directed by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon, the film features an impressive list of Broadway stars. 

Grammy Award-winning actress Danielle Brooks from “Orange Is the New Black” will take the leading role as gospel legend Jackson. Also included in the cast are Joaquina Kalukango (“Slave Play”), Jason Dirden (“Fences”), Olivia Washington (“The Butler”), and Rob Demery (“Lovecraft Country”). 

Premiering at 8 p.m. ET/PT on April 3, the movie follows Dirden as Russell Roberts, “the dashing, music-loving reverend who falls for Mahalia when they first meet in the late 1940s,” a description of the film reads. “Kalukango takes on the role of Mildred, Mahalia’s talented and opinionated, longtime pianist. Washington portrays Estelle, a piano teacher Mahalia meets at church who goes on to become her lifelong friend, and Demery stars as the influential civil rights leader.”

The trailer showcases both Jackson’s faith and passion for equality during the civil rights era.

“All these white folks tell me how wonderful I am, then they want to get mad when I buy a home in their neighborhood,” Brooks is heard saying as Jackson in the clip.

In another line, she says, “Dear God, your gift wasn’t my voice; your gift was my purpose!”

“Mahalia” was produced by Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions. Bettina Gilois and Todd Kreidler wrote the script. 

Born in New Orleans, Jackson is now one of the most revered gospel singers in U.S. history. Her music led many with the Gospel message during the civil rights movement. Jackson’s hit song “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies, gaining her international notoriety. Jackson’s gift granted her a seat at the table during racial segregation and brought mixed audiences to performances at Carnegie Hall and John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball. 

Jackson, a granddaughter of slaves, used her voice in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in hopes that her music would encourage and inspire racial equality. Throughout her career, the self-taught performer was pressured to record secular music, but she never veered from her Gospel path. Jackson died at age 60 of heart disease in 1972.

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