Danielle Brooks (born September 17, 1989) is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, and for her Tony Award-nominated portrayal of Sofia in the 2015 Broadway production of The Color Purple.
Brooks was born in Augusta, Georgia, and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, in a Christian family; her father was a deacon, and her mother, a minister. She began acting at the age of six in a nativity play put on by her church. For her final two years of high school, she attended South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts & Humanities, a selective arts high school. She studied drama at the Juilliard School and graduated in 2011.
After graduating from Juilliard, Brooks won roles in two theater productions: the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Servant of Two Masters, and Blacken the Bubble. She left both productions in 2013 to join the cast of the Netflix-produced television series Orange Is the New Black, a show about a women's prison based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name, as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson. Her character Taystee was originally intended to be featured in the show for only two episodes but ended up being written into the rest of the first season and then into the seasons that followed. Taystee's on-screen best friend Poussey is played by Samira Wiley, with whom Brooks has been friends since they met while studying together at Juilliard. Brooks' performance in Orange Is the New Black has been praised by critics, with one writer from The Daily Beast calling her "the breakout actress of the show and one of the most refreshing and exciting new talents of 2013." Brooks was upgraded from a recurring cast member to a series regular for the show's second season.