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Joaquina Kalukango talks working with Danielle Brooks in ‘Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia’

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Courtesy of Lifetime

Joaquina Kalukango starred alongside Danielle Brooks in the Mahalia Jackson biopic, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which aired Saturday night on Lifetime.

While Brooks took on the role of the legendary gospel singer and activist, Kalukango plays Jackson’s loyal piano-playing friend. Kalukango said their longtime friendship played a part in their on-camera chemistry. 

“It was absolutely essential,” says Kalukango. “We’ve known each other since we were 18 in college together and so much of that training is about working and building an ensemble and [with] that familiarity, there are things we can ask of each other with no ego. We’ve literally seen each other at our worst and best days.”

Kalukango and Brooks met as roommates at The Juilliard School in New York 10 years ago and later became close friends. 

The 32-year-old says there was “freedom” in being able to go to Brooks and say, “‘Hey let’s go work on this scene’ or ‘hey, how you feel about this moment? Am I giving you what you need?’ without any ego, without any trepidation, without any fear.”

Kalukango also shared that her friendship with Brooks made filming feel less like work and more like fun.

“Honestly, it didn’t feel like work and that’s just the fun-ness about that,” she laughs. “It just felt like having a blast with your family. And I mean it was a beautiful experience.”

Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia is available now on Hulu.

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