Danielle Pinnock Is Standing In The Yes Of Her Blossoming Acting Career
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Danielle Pinnock is having a moment. She stars as Alberta on the CBS series Ghosts, is working on an adult animation series with Taraji P. Henson, writes, stars in, and produces her own web series and has social media sketches that have garnered the attention of the industry elite, including Kerry Washington and Natasha Rothwell.

But as with most seemingly meteoric ascents, Pinnock’s rise has been a long time coming. She has been doing this work for over a decade, working in theater, studying at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and performing in Chicago’s legendary comedy club The Second City. 

“I’ve been at this for a hot minute,” Pinnock tells ESSENCE. “I’m really grateful for all of the training because when I first moved to L.A. in 2016, I felt extremely prepared to be on television.”

Pinnock admits although she was ready from a technical perspective, mentally, there were still some hurdles she had to address. “I was scared to be on television because I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m plus size. My double chin is going to be on screen.”

It was Pinnock’s own work that helped her move past these insecurities. The same year she moved to L.A., she launched her one-woman show Body Courage. For the performance, Pinnock asked 350 people across the world how they felt about their bodies. But there was one story that was missing.

“A lot of people from Second City came to see the show. They were like, ‘You’re really talented. We love all these voices but what is your personal story? How do you fit into all of these different characters that you’re portraying?’”

Pinnock, a first-generation Jamaican-American, grew up balancing the disparate worlds of her religious, female-led household and her predominately white private school in New Jersey. 

“Adding my story truly changed my life. I’m a 200+ pound girl, okay? And I was doing 90 minutes by myself, eight shows a week. And audiences were coming in droves, sold out, night after night,” Pinnock said. “I realized people actually do need this representation. It’s actually really important. And I can’t be worried about how I’m going to look on TV. I just gotta do me.”

Doing her included creating more of her own content with the series Hashtag Booked, about the challenges Black women face in the entertainment industry

“Honestly, creating my own content has been the most fulfilling because I can create my own lane,” Pinnock says. “And with that, more people are seeing me as the complete artist that I actually am.”

Pinnock credits the series for helping her land the role of Alberta on Ghosts but there were a series of coincidences that aligned to make sure she got this job. 

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“There was another actor who was in the role for this,” Pinnock explained. “They had a full cast pre-pandemic. Then the pandemic hit and CBS was like ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen with a lot of the shows in our slate but we can’t do this series any more.’”

Eventually, the network decided to continue the project but they had to recast. Pinnock had been working for CBS for four years as Ms. Ingram on the series Young Sheldon when her agent presented her with the opportunity. 

“I read the character description and I said, ‘Wait a minute, she’s a ghost?! What is this?’ Pinnock recalls. “It sounded so cool. It was right up my alley. I remember asking my mom if I could borrow her shake and go curly wig. I had my 30th birthday dress that was super sparkly,  this little hat from this show that I did and a fur shawl. I did the tape with my husband and sent it in. And I didn’t think anything about it because you know as an actor, you can’t get too attached.”

Later that week, she learned she’d booked the role. Pinnock says there’s a video of the moment where she just broke down crying. 

Alberta gives Pinnock the chance to embody someone so wholly unlike herself. “She is so deliciously confident,” Pinnock said of the character. “I’m an introvert. I love staying in the house. I love watching Selling Sunset. That’s me. But she has an ego the size of the country. I just love her. Even though she is truly a hot mess and out of pocket, she’s real.”

Alberta is both the comic relief but she also brings gravitas to the show, dropping “incredible truth bombs” throughout the series. In this week’s episode, Alberta shares a particular story that rang true for Pinnock as well. 

“There was a lot of dialogue about how to round out this character and bring some richness to her,” Pinnock says. “I talked to Lauren Bridges (a Black woman in the writer’s room) about the story of my own father. He passed when I was 16 years old and has never been able to see a performance of mine. Them adding that personal tidbit was so important to me. I know my mom and my grandmother saw it and were in tears. They said, ‘This is like a tribute to him.’ Fame for this woman is not superficial. It’s really to make her family proud.”

As the daughter of immigrants, Pinnock can relate. “Our families came here to this country with nothing and had to make something of themselves. As first generation and second generation kids, we really do want to make them proud and know that their sacrifice wasn’t in vain.”

With the success she’s currently enjoying we’re sure her family approves. Reflecting on what might be next for her, Danielle says she’d love to book a movie and is currently working on a project that explores the dualities of her life in Jersey with her Jamaican family and her white peers. 

Pinnock doesn’t foresee any of the opportunities slowing down. “I’m fully standing in ‘what is for me, is for me,’” she says. “I am so ready for this time and I’m so ready for the yeses to keep on coming.”

You can watch Ghosts Thursdays at 9 pm EST on CBS. 

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