Danielle Pinnock: One Woman, One Voice, Endless Possibilities

Words and Interview By Krystal Luster

When Danielle isn’t “in character”, she is likely just being herself. In addition to acting, Danielle is a talented playwrite, and acting coach. She has made several TV appearances, and has written and performed in her own body of work,. From a young age Danielle was inspired to follow her dreams of becoming an actress, and she makes it a point to inspire similar dreams of others. 

Let us start by saying “Happy Belated Birthday!” What did you do to celebrate?
Thank you so much! It was the most epic birthday celebration! My husband and mom planned the biggest surprise birthday party ever. My family and best friends flew to LA from the East Coast. It was the best birthday I’ve ever had in my life!

Tell us about the Danielle Pinnock before the stage. What was your home life like?
I started acting on stage when I was 10 years old and before that I have no idea what I was doing. Ha! I was probably watching Lamb Chops Play Along or Smurfs. I spent my childhood in Boston and moved to New Jersey when I was 10. I was raised by my grandmother and mother in a very Christian-Jamaican household.

Would you say your parents/family were your biggest supports when you began working towards an acting career?
Absolutely! My mother is my biggest fan. She has supported me from the very beginning and allowed me to realize my dream of being an actor. My family would always come and see me in the school plays. I come from a very large Jamaican family. My mother has 12 brothers and sisters. All of my performances would be packed with family as early as I can remember.

Who are/were you most inspired by?
Whoopi Goldberg, Lucille Ball,Viola Davis and my auntie Patrice Johnson are my greatest inspirations. My aunt is a phenomenal actor and I saw a production at the Shakespeare Theater in DC where she played Desdemona alongside Patrick Stewart. She is fiercely talented and a force to be reckoned with on stage. She is one of my greatest inspirations and seeing her work gave me the courage to start acting.

Tell us about Body/Courage. What inspired you to want to write about this particular subject?
Body/Courage actually started as my Master’s dissertation in 2011 at the Birmingham School of Acting UK. We were required to create a solo performance piece. I wanted to interview men and women about their body image struggles and bring those stories to the stage. As an African American woman of size it was also important for me to play a diverse range of characters. The industry saw me as a certain “type” and my goal with Body/Courage was to break the stigmas against bigger bodies and bring attention to the body positivity movement.

Have you had your own struggles with body image?
My grandmother would constantly remind me of how chubby I was as a child. My mother used to diet frequently and many times I would diet with her as a kid. I have struggled with body image my entire life. However, interviewing all of the people for the project showed me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle and that there is truly a light at the end of a very long tunnel. I’ve learned to love myself through meditation, prayer, therapy and positive affirmations. It’s been a continuous journey but I’ve reached a great place where I feel love and gratitude for my body.

Was it a challenge putting on a one-woman-show?
It was not easy at all. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into creating that show. I was on stage, by myself, for 90 minutes in front of a sold-out audience most nights. It takes a lot of physical, mental and emotional training to have a successful one-woman show. I’m so proud of the work that was done on Body/Courage and so thankful for the team that helped me make it such a success.

Were the interviews used, interviews that you conducted?
Yes. I conducted over 300 interviews worldwide in a five year period.

What type of response did you receive for this project? Were you ever doubtful of people’s reactions?
The project received so much love. At the end of play, I would ask the audience… “Was there ever a time they were not at peace with their bodies?” The theater would keep a pen and post-it note under each seat. The audience would fill out their personal answers out and stick the post-it notes on the walls of the theater. At the final performance, the entire theater was covered in post its. I had no idea what to expect with this production, but I am so humbled by the fact that people loved it and it changed lives.

Are you currently writing another performance piece?
I’m actually writing a pilot and a short film at the moment.

Tell us about “Young Sheldon” (CBS). How long have you been a part of the TV series as Ms. Ingram?
Young Sheldon has been the biggest blessing that has happened in my career. My character, Ms. Ingram, has been recurring on the show since the pilot.

Describe the relationship between Ms. Ingram and Sheldon.
Ms. Ingram is Sheldon’s math teacher and he is the smartest student in the entire school. Iain Armitage gives a masterful performance as Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon is always correcting Ms. Ingram on her math in front of the entire class and she gets a little stressed about it.

Were you ever interested in being an educator?
I’ve been acting and career coaching for eight years. I  love teaching and helping artists reach their full potential. There is nothing more satisfying than to see the artists I coach realize their dreams.

What was your favorite subject(s) in school?
My favorite subjects in school were AP English and AP History.

Tell us about “Get Shorty”. Have you read and/or watched the original book/ film the series is based on?
Get Shorty is a hilariously dark comedy and I’m so lucky to work alongside some of the industry’s most brilliant actors. I watched the film many years ago. The television show takes many unexpected twists and turns. It’s an incredible show and everyone should add EPIX to their cable subscriptions stat!

What role does Nurse Pamela play throughout the development of the series?
Pamela is a live in nurse for Rick’s (played by Ray Romano)father, Giustino. Giustino is played by the legendary director Peter Bogdanovich. Pamela is such a fun character to play, because she always ends up being the buffer between Giustino and Rick. Rick and Giustino have a rough past together and Pamela comically relives the tension between them.

You recently appeared on PlusThis! Show. Tell us about your experience as a guest.
Oh my goodness! PlusThis! was the best show I’ve ever been on to date. Those ladies are amazing and are doing such groundbreaking work in the podcast-radio world. Eva and Kathy made me feel so comfortable and those ladies are also a riot! We had a blast on the show and I’m so happy to know them.

What are your thoughts on the image of black women portrayed in Hollywood?
I need Hollywood to give black women the opportunity to flourish in this industry. Constantly we are given the same kinds of roles and thank God for writers like Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae and Kenya Barris who are giving us the opportunity to play a diverse range of characters. Hollywood still has a lot of work to do, but what excites me is that more artists are beginning to create their own work!

What do you have in-store for the remainder of 2018?
I’ve recently written an article for Shondaland titled, “Snatched Edges” dealing with unqualified hairstylists and makeup artists on set. I’ve also co-created an improvised Instagram series called @HashtagBooked and it’s an inside look on what it means to be an actor of color in the industry.

Follow Danielle Pinnock on Twitter and Instagram @bodycourage.

Photo By: Joe Mazza

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