Taraji P. Henson on the message of

Taraji P. Henson on the message of

Tooba Shakir 5 months ago 0 0


Stepping out on a Hollywood penthouse balcony with Taraji P. Henson, it seems she knows just how high she’s come up in the world. “When I go speak to inner city children, I’m always like, ‘Just get out of your zip code,'” she said. “‘Cause you go to some of these towns, they’ve never left their zip code. They’ve never been downtown in their own city. So, how can they dream?”

Henson definitely got out of her zip code. Truth is, she’s entered the stratosphere. 

In the musical film version of the classic “The Color Purple,” opening Christmas Day, she stars as Shug, a woman who sings, dances, and generally breaks the rules. Henson says she actually turned down the chance to play the role on Broadway. “Broadway is tough!” she said. “I don’t know if you know, that’s eight shows a week. It’s a lot. And because I was trained in theater and I’ve done musical theater before, I just knew I wasn’t ready. I was like, ‘I don’t have it.'”

But she has it here – just another showcase for an actor with talent to burn.

Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery in the new musical adaptation of “The Color Purple.” 

Ser Baffo/© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Taraji Penda Henson (the name means “hope love” in Swahili) grew up in inner city Washington, D.C., and studied electrical engineering before switching to drama.

During her junior year she got pregnant, but that didn’t mean her acting dream was over: “No, no. If anything, I became fierce in going after my dreams. Because there was no time to waste now. I have a kid. And now it’s not just me anymore. So, I don’t have time for the BS.”

Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson.

CBS News

After she graduated Howard University (with her son in her arms), her father, Boris, told her to go west to pursue her acting dream. And so, with a new baby and only $700 to her name, she came to L.A., and started making the rounds, doing guest shots on shows like “ER.”

Her first real breakout role came opposite Terrence Howard in the 2005 hit “Hustle and Flow,” as a first-time backup singer on a song about the challenges of a certain line of work:

Hard Out Here for a Pimp – Hustle & Flow (5/9) Movie CLIP (2005) HD by
Movieclips on

She still remembers making “Hustle and Flow” as one of the highlights of her life: “Even if I wasn’t in a scene, I would stay on the set all night long,” she said. “Just because we were just so happy to be there. I haven’t done that since then! That was that special. Now I go, ‘I’m done. Bye y’all, have fun!'”

Henson’s roles got a lot bigger, but her paychecks didn’t always measure up. For instance, she asked for $500,000 for a big role opposite Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” “I wasn’t even being greedy. I knew that I was up-and-coming. But surely I know I can make you $500,000 with my fan base.”

She was offered $75,000. “And then we fought and fought until we got $150,000.”

Her Oscar-nominated performance in “Button,” it turns out, was priceless.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2/9) Movie CLIP – A Child of God (2008) HD by
Movieclips on

As was her role in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” the true story of the Black women who helped get the space program off the ground even as they were treated like second-class citizens. Henson was riveting as mathematician Katherine Johnson.

Hidden Figures(2016) No more colored bathroom,no more white bathroom by
Tanvir Majumder on

And when the “Hidden Figures” cast won a SAG Award, Henson summed it all up in a speech for the ages: “This story is of unity. This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time.”

On TV, Henson was reunited with Terrence Howard in the primetime soap “Empire,” as his vengeful ex-wife, Cookie. But she needed some convincing – she says she didn’t want to do “Empire” at first. “I did not. Because I didn’t read it, to be quite honest. I heard about it and I was like, ‘That’s sounds stupid!'”

But she went on to win a Golden Globe for the role, and helped make the show a smash. And now, in “The Color Purple,” her character helps other women to see how strong they can be. You could say Taraji P. Henson does that with every role she takes on.

Smith asked, “This brings us very nicely back to ‘The Color Purple.’ What do you hope people take from this film?”

“Time is up when the heart stops,” Henson replied. “As long as you got a beat in your heart, there’s time to make your wildest dreams come true.”

“What did you take from it?”

“It just reminds me of how powerful we are as women when we stick together. And that just doesn’t mean that we’re comin’ after you, men!” Henson laughed. “If we stick together, you’re taken care of. Relax! You know, men get nervous. The women and girls are stickin’ together! You will benefit, trust me.”

To watch a trailer for “The Color Purple,” click on the video player below:

The Color Purple | Official Trailer 2 by
Warner Bros. Pictures on

For more info:

Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Mike Levine. 


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