'Girls' Gets Its First Black Woman- Danielle Brooks

In a recent interview with Ebony, Danielle Brooks, who stars as Taystee on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, revealed that she’s recently been cast on HBO’s Girls. 

“I just shot an episode of ‘Girls’ for HBO,” Brooks told Ebony when asked about what’s next for her. “I will be the first black woman to be on ‘Girls,’ so that’s exciting for me.”

As some may recall, Girls came under fire for it’s lack of “diversity” even though the show is about 20-somethings coming of age in New York City. During an interview with NPR,  Lena Dunham defended her decision as to why the cast wasn’t diverse:

I take that criticism very seriously. … This show isn’t supposed to feel exclusionary. It’s supposed to feel honest, and it’s supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it’s not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue.

I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.

Although Dunham didn’t add any black woman characters after the backlash,  Donald Glover was added to the cast as her character’s love interest.    I will be honest and say I was a little perturbed after watching the first season of Girls, but when I thought about it, if I were to write a television show about my circle of friends, it probably wouldn’t have any white women in it either. It would be more like Girlfriends, and not even close to gentrification.

Brooks didn’t give any other details about her role on Girls, so it’ll be interesting to see how her character is written. Dunham previously said she wasn’t able to speak to that aspect of life so may she buckled under the pressure of diversifying the cast? Since Brooks’ character on Orange Is The New Black was promoted to a recurring role, one has to wonder if the Girls role is just a “walk on” for one episode.  I guess we’ll all be speculating until the new season airs in January 2014. Personally, I’m looking forward to season 3, with or without a black character.

 (h/t Apple from the comment section)

What do you think about the addition of a black character on Girls?

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37 Comments

  1. justanotheropinion

    In the words of Shakespeare “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much”. Now she has shown her money making as*.

    Dunham made herself clear from the get go. Any addition of a black character only shows she is bowing to pressure or needs a new audience.

    If you didn’t need to include us in the beginning (since that wasn’t your experience), why now? So now you’ve found the Holy Black Grail: “Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to.” Did you suddenly discover there are Black People in NY and they happen to cross your path?

    I’m sorry Danielle Brooks, but what should be a bright spot in your career is sandbagged by the role with the writer/producer/director. It’s not a commentary on your skills or ability as an actor. It just is.

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  2. diasporauk

    So they’ve selected the “diversity” candidate they want to play the token black chick, to appease the diversity headbangers, but the diversity headbangers still not satisfied.

    Turns out, it’s not just about including a black face, you gotta pick the “RIGHT” black face. No doubt one that can compete with white beauty.

    Apparently, the black woman they’ve chosen isn’t white enough to do that.

    Sick, sick people.

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    • Angelique212

      I always find it crazy when (from what it appears) non-Americans get on these boards to disparage the concerns of a people who live within a system the commentator does not reared under. That, to me… is sick. …. and the assumptions “..isn’t white enough”..?!?!?!. WHERE did you come up with this? Though I have gaggles of family members throughout the UK and other regions, I would not feel comfortable…scratch that… I would feel like a b@stard, even if I were a transplant, to look down my nose at the concerns of “the natives”. How ridiculous is that?

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    • diasporauk

      What the hell are you on about? Learn to speak English.

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    • Phillygurl

      Oh shut the hell up and worry sbout the racially “ambiguos” UK.

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  3. Afro Scented

    It’s a show written by a white woman for white people about white people. I have no idea why black people who watch the show feel black characters have to be included nor do I fully understand why they would want a white writer, who doesn’t seem to be the most enlightened on the experience of colored folks, to create black characters through her very white and limited perspective. The fact that black people still feel so strong about white people not including them in their circles of experience I find embarrassing and infuriating. I can assure you, they aren’t asking anyone to include them in black stories, nor are they watching black shows (for those that do) in the hopes of being included.

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  4. eshowoman

    Lena Dunham does not have the talent, imagination or inclination to write a black female character with depth or complexity. With the success of black female characters on Scandal and Sleepy Hollow I think she is just trying to be in on the burgeoning trend.

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