Lifetime’s highly anticipated gospel biopic Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, will premiere Saturday, April 3 at 8:00pm ET/PT. An impressive list of Broadway stars including Tony® nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Slave Play), Jason Dirden (Fences), Olivia Washington(The Butler) and Rob Demery (Lovecraft Country) join the film which is directed by Tony® Award-winner Kenny Leon and stars Tony Award nominee, SAG and Grammy® Award winning actress Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black) as the gospel legend and civil rights trailblazer.
In the movie, Dirden stars as Russell Roberts, the dashing, music-loving Reverend who falls for Mahalia when they first meet in the late 1940s while Kalukango takes on the role of Mildred, Mahalia’s talented and opinionated, long-time pianist. Washington portrays Estelle, a piano teacher Mahalia meets at church who goes on to become her life-long friend and Demery stars as the influential civil rights leader.
Born in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson began singing at an early age and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history, melding her music with the civil rights movement. Her recording of the song “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies, skyrocketing her to international fame and gave her the opportunity to perform at diverse settings including in front of a racially integrated audience at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball. An active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Jackson sang at numerous rallies, including the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in hopes that her music would encourage and inspire racial equality.
From Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions, Mahalia is executive produced by Robin Roberts and Linda Berman. Danielle Brooks and Kenny Leon are co-executive producers. Leon directs from a script written by Bettina Gilois and Todd Kreidler.