Actress Danielle Pinnock wants to make an impact on representation in Hollywood. For her, that includes changing the way plus-size Black women are seen on-screen.
In an interview with the LA Times, Pinnock said she will never forget her audition for “Ghosts,” a CBS sitcom about a young couple inheriting a countryside estate that’s haunted by deceased previous residents.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pinnock found herself in the race for the role of Alberta Haynes, a Prohibition-era lounge singer who is something of a den mother to the gaggle of ghosts. Before her audition, she gathered a few props to help her get in character. The props included her mother’s old wig, a cheap faux-fur shawl, an old birthday dress, and a little red hat. Her creativity and sassy, funny charm worked. Pinnock landed her first series regular role on “Ghosts.” The show is now network television’s second-most-watched comedy.
The career milestone is something that is not taken lightly by the 34-year-old actress. She has made it her mission to advocate for plus-size Black women.
“A lot of what I do is to pay homage to women like Hattie McDaniel because they never got the chance to explore their characters fully,” Pinnock said in a video call with the LA Times. “And even with the little that they had, they were still able to deliver such iconic performances. So now, with the freedom that I have as an actor, it is so important to me to make sure that the representation is right.”
Danielle Pinnock Paved Her Own Way
Pinnock grew up in New Jersey. She is the only child of a single mother who was an immigration attorney. Pinnock first began acting in school plays as an extracurricular activity. Initially, her mother wanted Pinnock to pursue a career in law or STEM. Instead Pinnock graduated with a bachelor’s in theater and communication from Temple University. She later obtains her graduate degree in acting from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. She found work early in her 20s, but Pinnock eventually decided that if Hollywood wouldn’t give her the “yes” she deserved, she would create her own opportunities.
Pinnock decided to turn her dissertation project into a one-woman show called “Body/Courage.” She interviewed over 300 people worldwide about their body image and staged a production using the responses from the NYC and Chicago crowd.
Playing Alberta Haynes
Alberta Haynes is by far the most glamorous ghost in the house according to Pinnock. She drew inspiration for the character from icons like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.
“I had a responsibility to make sure that this 1920s character stood out, not just because of her iconic, laugh-out-loud one-liners, but I also wanted to make sure that I steered away from any and all ‘Mammy’ stereotypes,” Pinnock added. “So anytime our writers gave Alberta a story line, I respectfully urged them always to go deeper — to give her emotion, vulnerability and humanity.”