You may have seen her as the talkative hairstylist in Scandal or the tight-lipped math teacher in Young Sheldon, but now she’s coming into her own.
Network comedy is rare; Big roles for black actresses are even rarer. Now layer that with the fact that she’s the breakout star of a hit network comedy and you have an idea of the trajectory of Danielle Pinnock, the Boston-born, London-educated actress who is also a first-generation immigrant from a… Jamaican family is.
“It changed my life,” Pinnock said of the CBS sitcom Ghosts, which became the top-watched new comedy series of the 2021 season and debuted its second season on Sept. 29 with a full 22-episode order. “I’m a plus-size black woman and a lot of my roles are professional. I’d be the cheeky librarian saying, ‘Bring that Harry Potter book over there.’”
Comedy graveyards are littered with British shows that haven’t made the transition to American audiences — for every The Office, there’s Coupling and Bad Education — but Ghosts is a happy exception. Imagination suggests “Beeltlejuice” via “Fawlty Towers”: A young couple inherits a large country house that is in disrepair – and! It contains a selection of former residents who are now non-malicious spirits. The original British version is now entering its fourth season on the BBC, but Pinnock’s role as Alberta Haynes is very American: she’s a jazz singer who died from drinking spoiled moonshine.
Alberta is Pinnock’s biggest role, but it’s far from her first. She earned her MFA from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire before spending four seasons as math teacher Ms. Ingram on the CBS sitcom Young Sheldon and five episodes as Nurse Pamela on the Epix series Get Shorty. There she interviewed 300 people for her one-woman dissertation show Body/Courage and performed them over a five-year period. This led to a Second City Fellowship in Chicago.
“When I moved to Los Angeles, I felt like I was at the Atlanta Olympics,” Pinnock said. “I realized that while the industry will say you have to go on social media, you have to do X, Y, Z, I didn’t want to follow in those footsteps. I wanted to do my own thing. I wasn’t there to get 100 million followers. I just wanted to be able to create something.”
For Pinnock, that meant creating Hashtag Booked with her friend and fellow actress LaNisa Frederick. Launched in 2018, Hashtag Booked began as a Facebook page with viral videos documenting the unfiltered trials and tribulations of a black actress. Episodes include the best friend celebrating her no-dialogue casting as “Crackhead #2”, the actor making every excuse to remind people of the time she guest-starred on “Blues Clues”, and even a heartfelt admission of what it feels like, after 20 years, to finally be on set with a hair and makeup team that understands black hair.
“We went to all these auditions and nothing happened when we first moved to Los Angeles,” Pinnock said. However, the social media frenzy created by “Hashtag Booked” led to interest from CBS in “Ghosts.” (The executives were delighted and surprised by their improvisational skills.)
“It was tough stomping on the sidewalk and still hearing the ‘no,'” Pinnock said. “We decided that we just wanted to create our own ‘yes’.”
Today, that “yes” belongs to many people. She finds Hashtag Booked fans “in the cafes, on the streets and on the set of ‘Ghosts.’ People tell me they feel seen,” Pinnock said. “When you have to laugh at the absurdities that have happened in the entertainment industry, step aside. It just means the world to me because LaNisa and I created this as an outlet for us.” Pinnock and Frederick are now developing a Hashtag Booked film pitch that they will be buying into the studios in 2023.
Pinnock is also developing an adult animated series, Unmentionables, in collaboration with Emmy-nominated actress Punam Patel (“Special”). As executive producer, “Empire” director Anthony Hemingway and star Taraji P. Henson are a story about mismatched underwear and the millennial who wears them.
Right now, Pinnock is all about Ghosts Season 2, which will delve deeper into Alberta’s past. “I’m so excited to have a flashback,” Pinnock said. “Many wanted to see Alberta in the jazz clubs of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. They’ll get that in Episode 2.” Alberta will also get a romance as her relationship with Scoutmaster Ghost Pete (Richie Moriarity) continues to develop.
Or maybe it’s not just about “ghosts” or even “hashtag booked”. “I often feel like it’s all go, go, go for actors in the industry,” Pinnock said. “And there’s no self-care that happens. And I can’t let the industry screw me. Because then I have nothing more.
“My courage comes without question from my mother and my grandmother,” she said. “They raised me alone and they are the wildest women I know. And to see the adversity they have faced and how they have just faced them with such grace and power gives me the courage to know that I can move on, be it in the industry or even in life.”
The second season of “Ghosts” premiered on September 29 on CBS.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/09/ghosts-danielle-pinnock-cbs-1234768059/ Ghosts Outbreak Danielle Pinnock is a star