Taraji P. Henson’s appeal is undeniable—unless you were a producer or director who met her before she starred on Empire. That much was clear when she accepted her Golden Globe for her role as Cookie Lyons in 2016. “Please wrap?” she said on stage, as the show tried to cut her off. “I waited 20 years for this. You gonna wait!”
In an interview with the Guardian, Henson talks about how Hollywood consistently passed her over for big roles early in her career. She does this so gracefully and matter-of-factly, it somehow comes across as nice:
“I don’t think Hollywood quite knew what to do with me. They didn’t grasp my talent. I’m like a musician. Give me the sheet music and I’ll play you anything.” I ask what she has in mind and she starts snatching ideas from the air. “I wanna play a wizard! A warlock! Put makeup on me. Make me a long-nosed witch, some Harry Potter fantasy thing. Take me out of my body. Make me fly. Put me in a muscle suit, a mask, put me in a – I don’t know – a fatsuit. I’ll play Jabba the Hutt. I’ll play anything!”
I’d watch Henson as a warlock any day. Give her the script!
Henson also says she was meant to star alongside Bill Murray in St. Vincent, as a pregnant sex worker, but Harvey Weinstein gave the role to Naomi Watts instead. Henson suggests that Weinstein couldn’t see a black woman in the role :
Was Weinstein’s decision a matter of race? “Yeah,” Henson says. “Basically, I don’t think he saw my box-office appeal. What I heard – I didn’t sit down with the man – is that he wanted someone who was known internationally, so they got Naomi Watts.”
How does she feel about his subsequent downfall? “Well, you know, I just sit here and I sip my tea.” A sly smile appears as she does just that. “I never wished anything bad on the man. I was just, like, ‘OK, he’ll see. That’s another person who’ll have to eat crow. How would you like yours? Fried? Toasted?’”
Read the full interview here.