If Pam Grier and Farrah Fawcett had a baby, it would look like Taraji P. Henson on this cover of Uptown. So much REALNESS. Anyway, I love Taraji. I loved her before Cookie on Empire and I’ll love her after. She’s amazing and beautiful and funny. It’s such a pleasure to see someone I’ve always liked and enjoyed blow up to be part of a cultural-phenomenon show like Empire. In Uptown, Taraji talks about riding this crazy wave of success and why her college-aged son is transferring to an all-black college. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
The success of Empire: “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my career…I played a lot of characters that could’ve been borderline stereotypical women, but my job as an actress is to make the audience understand and empathize with the people. Cookie is a lot. She wears me out but I know this woman. I’ve done my research inside and out. I took Cookie from Lee and made her my own.”
She’s not about awards: “Right now, the hype is great. I hope that now, because of my name, people are starting to connect the dots. But for me, it’s not about awards because that’s so political, so finicky. Yes, having that beautiful trophy is a great accomplishment, but that doesn’t alter how I’m gonna move in this industry. I just put my knuckles to the wall and I work.”
All of the African-American women on TV these days: “It feels good that there’s not just one black person. I don’t like that we get fixated on one or two at a time, or three at a time. If you look at Caucasian Hollywood, every year there’s a handful of new faces you’ve never seen before, then after that, they got five movies coming out and they’re introducing you to more talent. So I’m just so happy to see what’s happening on television right now. We have options and that’s how it should be.”
On not comparing herself to other actresses: “If you don’t stay in your lane and you start looking around, you’ll go crazy. I use to have this crazy thing with Amy Adams, and I love Amy Adams. You see her [consistently] getting nominated, as she should, because Amy does good work. But, it’s like, ‘Well, I did good work too.’ But if you choose to stay in that place then you become miserable. It’s a pity party and nobody cares. I’m human, so I’ve done it. But I check that because it’s ego and it’s the devil.”
Her 20-year-old son Marcel: “My child has been racially profiled. He was in Glendale, California and did exactly everything the cops told him to do, including letting them illegally search his car. It was bogus because they didn’t give him the ticket for what he was pulled over for. Then he’s at University of Southern California, the school that I was going to transfer him to, when police stopped him for having his hands in his pockets. So guess where he’s going? Howard University. I’m not paying $50K so I can’t sleep at night wondering is this the night my son is getting racially profiled on campus.”
When Taraji talks about her career and how long it’s taken her to get to this point, she does remind me a bit of Viola Davis. I find Viola to be an inspirational person, but Viola is very sober and serious about the struggle whereas I think Taraji does see the glass as half-full. I mean, Taraji has worked consistently in film and TV for decades. She was always able to work, and she’s grateful for that. But she’s come into her own after decades and she’s enjoying it without reservations.
As for Taraji’s story about her son… well, she’s from Washington, DC. And she transferred into Howard when she was Marcel’s age too. I don’t doubt that her son was racially profiled or that he was stopped by the police for being black, but I kind of wonder if she always wanted Marcel to go to Howard in the first place. Plus, Howard University is an excellent school across the board.
Photos courtesy of Getty, Uptown.