Danielle Deadwyler Is the Beating Heart of ‘Till’
The last time Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars, she thanked her parents, who ran off to California after her mother, Dorothy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. When Dorothy was diagnosed, she asked her daughter to give a speech. “What can I say?” she replied. “Maybe I can make it more personal.”
So Danielle is no stranger to death and dying, either. In her mind, she’s the person who can’t accept the inevitability of death and is, instead, determined to stay strong. “In this country, we don’t do a lot with our mortality,” she says. “We don’t show how we’re really feeling. We’re afraid of rejection or criticism. We hide our hearts and emotions. But I’m like, ‘I’m at that point now. It’s too late.’ ”
Danielle, like all young people, feels pressure to become someone that she’s not, to become good at something that she’s not, to live up to what she thinks she should be. It’s why, if she could, Danielle would give anything for the chance to spend the day alone with someone who she’s loved. “I’m always in a hurry, not even because I love speed,” she says, “but because I know how much time it takes to find someone who is interesting and creative.”
If Danielle has lived a full life, it’s with the full acceptance of who she is, and the full acceptance that will one day come with age. In a few more months, she’ll be 29 years old. That’s when, like Dorothy, she will have to make a decision as to whether or not to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
I first met her in the spring of 2005 at a young adult writers conference in Michigan. Danielle was sharing her work. As a teen, she’d been writing poetry about death and dying, and the words, when written down, left her feeling conflicted. She wanted