Taraji P. Henson: Naomi Watts’ role in ‘St. Vincent’ was written for me


I love Taraji P. Henson so much. I love her so much that I might even buy her memoir, Around the Way Girl. Taraji co-wrote the memoir about her life, about romance and about Hollywood and it came out this week. USA Today did some excerpts from the book and while these excerpts aren’t “scandalous,” they are interesting and sad. I knew that the father of Taraji’s son had been killed, but I didn’t know that he had abused her. I also didn’t know that she was supposed to have a supporting part in St. Vincent, the Bill Murray movie. Some highlights:

Being abused by her son’s father, Mark: “I whooped. He whooped. Then, the next thing I knew, Mark’s balled-up fist was coming straight for my face. I fell onto the bed crying and holding my mouth; blood seeped off my lips and across my teeth, washing a nasty, bitter, metallic taste over my tongue.” Henson ended their relationship after that fight, but Mark learned to deal with his anger and remained a part of the child’s life until his death in 2003.

The part that went to Naomi Watts: “Time and again, I’ve lost roles because someone with the ability to green-light a film couldn’t see black women beyond a very limited purview he or she thought ‘fit’ audience expectations,” Henson writes. As an example, she shares that the role of the pregnant Russian stripper in St. Vincent was written for her by the film’s screenwriter and director, Theodore Melfi, but was filled by Naomi Watts. “It was a meaty gig,” Henson writes. “I would have loved it. Alas, I couldn’t get served at that particular restaurant.”

Her Oscar-nominated role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Though Henson was nominated for an Academy Award in the best supporting actress category, she says she received “the equivalent of sofa change” compared to the salaries of co-stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Henson was unpleasantly surprised by her paycheck which was near “the lowest of six figures” and the fact that she had to foot her own hotel bill for three months. Henson says she put aside her disappointment and focused on her acting. “When I did that, my performance of Queenie became transformed into a spiritual awakening, not just for me but also the audiences who watched the film and cheered my performance.”

[From USA Today]

It sounds like she ended the relationship with Mark after he abused her, which is a great message for women to hear: the first time is the last time. As for what she says about Hollywood… God, that’s depressing. The Naomi Watts role in St. Vincent – that of a funny, pregnant stripper – was written for Taraji and the studio wanted it to be all-white, I guess? Or the writer/director wanted it, or Bill Murray wanted it that way. Who knows? I’d like to know who made that call. While Naomi was funny in the movie, Taraji would have been great too. As for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button… ugh, that sucks. I had to look it up – Brad Pitt wasn’t a producer on that film, although he does have a long-standing relationship with David Fincher, the director. Someone should have done something to make sure that Taraji was being taken care of, at least with her hotel bill, for the love of God.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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131 Responses to “Taraji P. Henson: Naomi Watts’ role in ‘St. Vincent’ was written for me”

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  1. Wilma says:

    I’m never sure with Taraji. Her comments on wanting the movie star treatment at restaurants soured me on her. Her defence of Terrence Howard is also problematic to me.

    • HH says:

      She has done some things that make me roll my eyes as well. However, I have no problem doubting her stories on casting. Particularly in terms of the Benjamin Button movie. HWood has been trying to act like they cast who’s best for the role and they haven’t been actively paying attention to race, which we all knew was BS. Now, come to find out, they pay attention to it so much, they know/expect Black actresses to take the scraps they’re offered. And when one won’t, the next one will. That’s not hard to believe AT ALL.

      ETA: I guess my overall point is don’t let the messenger ruin the message, particularly when it’s an important issue such as this.

      • Wilma says:

        Oh, I didn’t mean that I was doubting her about her story about casting. My reaction was to Kaiser writing she loves Taraji. I’m not sure how I feel about her.

      • Mia4S says:

        The Benjamin Button story is interesting though because that was always a role for an Black actress. The problem was if she said no there were probably 10 women of colour waiting for that spot (not like they were all busy with great roles of their own!) and it’s unlikely she had equivalent sized prestige role waiting elsewhere. The need for expanding content and opportunities is the real take away here.

    • Zeddy says:

      Lots of people say this crap about black actresses. The second they’re even half as demanding as the white ones, they’re just the worst. Enough already.

      • Wilma says:

        No, it’s just Taraji Henson to me and just those two things I mentioned. I really don’t like it when people expect a certain treatment outside of their work because of who they are.

      • Erinn says:

        Oh come on. Yes, there are tons of prejudice/racism in the industry. But that doesn’t make her immune from criticism towards her attitude.

        She blasted people for criticizing Howard over his physical assaults towards women with the classic “oh let’s pop the trunk on your life and see what’s dysfunctional and what’s bad”. Because, you know, you can’t comment on a man with a history of violence because that’s not a big deal – it’s just dysfunctional. And really, who hasn’t done something bad. She dismisses something that is SUCH a huge issue in our society as if it’s nothing, and as if everyone does things that are just as bad. And the criticism came up when he’s PLAYING an abusive character. It’s not like it came somewhere completely out of left field.

        As for the restaurant thing;

        “Henson, 43, says she uses her notoriety “to get my fat ass into a restaurant. If someone tells me there’s a wait, I’ll walk right to the front of the line like, ‘I need a table now. I need to eat, and I want this. So let’s work this out.’ “”

        Sorry – when she’s behaving like an ass, she’s just as open towards criticism as anyone else.

    • perplexed says:

      I tend to think most celebrities expect special treatment. She just openly vocalized it, which in a way is more honest. There’s a certain transparency there, rather than fakeness, which is probably why people like her.

    • Saks says:

      Yes, I actually like her but she has said a couple of eye-rolling things.
      Now I’m quite confused about her constant defence of Terrence after reading she is a survivor of abuse herself. I’m not judging but I don’t get it.

    • ladysussex says:

      Totally honest question, but the writer of St. Vincent wrote the role of a Russian stripper for her? So is she saying the author wrote the character as a black (non Russian) woman, or did the author think there are black Russians? Also, Jonah Hill worked for scale and paid his own way to be in a Scorsese film, and he is not a black woman so I don’t know if you can blame making “low six figures” (gasp!) for 3 months of work on being a black woman thing, nor is it an unusual salary for an relatively unknown actress in a supporting role. The vast majority of Americans don’t even make 6 figures for 12 months of work.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        I understood it that it was writen for an African-American and then changed to a (white) Russian. Because apparently stippers have to be black and/or Russian.

      • Original T.C. says:

        “or think there are black Russians? Also, Jonah Hill worked for scale and paid his own way to be in a Scorsese film, and he is not a black woman”

        That’s because Jonah Hill is not an actor and he was grateful to be given a role he neither had the training or experience for but got because he was Leo’s bro. He says so himself in multiple interviews.

        Seriously are you telling someone who trained to be an actor and got a role based on merit that she should just be luckily she was GIVEN a job? She EARNED her role and she is working in an industry where people get paid millions for a job. You are comparing her paycheck to people outside her field? Should lawyers be paid the same as grocery store workers or you paid the same as someone in a lower paying field? This is why Black women get paid less for the double “hit” of being Black and being a woman.

        You don’t have to like her, I’m pretty mixed on her personally but it’s disrespectful to say she should be happy with crumbs compared to her Caucasian counter-parts.

      • ladysussex says:

        @ Original T.C. Um….what?? You are must be replying to a comment other than mine. When did I say she “was lucky she was GIVEN a job” or that she didn’t EARN a role? I said she was unknown as a film actress and she was in a supporting role.
        And where on earth did you get the idea Jonah Hill isn’t an actor? He acted in at least 20 movies (starring roles in at least 10) before he did Wolf of Wall Street. What interview did he say he only got the role because he’s “Leo’s bro”? He went to acting school in New York so I don’t have any idea where you are getting the idea that he had “no training or experience”?? I think acting school+20 films that he’s acted in count as training and experience.

    • Llamas says:

      The lowest end of six figures……

      If i made 6 figures I wouldn’t complain. I’d be super grateful considering how hard pre med is. I’m a college kid that needs help with money from my parents (it’s pretty shameful) because I’m not getting job offers and i can’t do anything but chemistry so someone complaining about how they ONLY make 6 figures makes my eyes roll so hard. Movie stars make so much for not really doing much in comparison to the people working hard all day everyday in difficult jobs-I mean surgeons make less and they’re on their feet for 12 hours trying to save lives. Complain about unfair payment but you don’t need to include the number which is still super high for just acting.

      • Iknowwhatboyslike says:

        If you made less compared to your contemporaries, I’m sure you would have a problem with the “lowest end of six figures.” Comparing a Hollywodd star and a surgeon’s pay is apples and oranges. They are two different fields. We can discuss, however, why an entertainer is paid more than a surgeon or teacher in a different context. Taraji’s point is: why is she getting paid way less than her white male and yes female counterpoints. The fact is patricia Arquette, Jennifer Lawrence can opine all they want about pay inequality, but the fact is, they are paid more than women of color. I hope when they speak out on this issue, they don’t forget their sisters of color.

      • Zeddy says:

        You’re a saint. Too bad her role, which deservedly should have earned her way more, got her significantly less. Y’all always need to pretend that she’s being treated fairly, except black women rarely are.

      • Kori says:

        The hotel bill is ridiculous but she wasn’t a name then do no way was she getting what Pitt and Blanchett were. The story to me is how she couldn’t parlay that Oscar non into more high profile work–that says more about opportunity than her salary on that movie.

      • Lady Mimosa says:

        Surgeons do make six figures some make millions, it doesn’t sound like you know much about the profession you are trying to get into.

  2. Georgia says:

    I didn’t realize she was Benjamin Button’S mother! I remember loving that character. Although I totally just watched that movie for Brad Pitt. That man is beyond gorgeous (and a good actor!)

  3. Kathleen says:

    Yeah, I have to be honest….I’m always really iffy on this woman. WAs that role in St. Vincent really “written” for her? I wish I could believe her and I certainly am not doubting at ALL that there is absolutely a stigma towards the kinds of roles that Black women are offered. I absolutely believe that black women are given fewer opportunities and I think we need to speak up more about it. However, I gotta be honest….I’m not sure I agree that this particular actress has been robbed as much as SHE seems to always think she’s been robbed. Kerry Washington? Yes. Lupita? Yes. Gabrielle Union? Yes. All of them should be massive movie stars. But I just can’t take this woman’s ego. Demanding special treatment at restaurants…defending Terrence Howard. I’m extremely sorry to hear that she suffered abuse and I hope she has peace in her life now in that regard. But I’m not a fan.

    • Harryg says:

      I don’t like her and I hated St. Vincent.

    • Lady Mimosa says:

      Why should Gabriel a union be a massive star. None at the time had been nominated for an academy award.

    • Geekychick says:

      I can’t compare Gabrielle Union and Taraji. They are just two different planes of acting skills and talent. And the thing about restaurant-you are aware 95% of the actors expect and demand the same treatment, they just don’t mention it in interviews? Why should Kardashians get that treatment, or juliane Hough, or Ellen DeGeneres, but not Taraji?

  4. Zuzus Girl says:

    To be (semi) fair, she was not anywhere as well known as Pitt or Blanchett at the time. Still mostly known for TV roles. I absolutely adored her in Person of Interest but she often comes off a little delusional in interviews and her affection for Terrence Howard, a known abuser, is troubling (shocking now that we know her history.) I don’t doubt that many roles written for POC go to better known white actors. In Watts case, she is at least as good and imho better as an actor. Doesn’t by any means mean it’s fair.

    • Pamela says:

      I thought the same thing in regards to Blanchett and Pitt. But let’s face it, Blanchett and Pitt have had many more opportunities than she has. So it all sort of circles around. She gets less tasty roles because she is black, and then when she scores a decent role, she gets paid pennies to their dollars because she isn’t as big of a name.

    • Bridget says:

      I understand that she’s not on the same level as Blanchett and Pitt. But she had a substantial role in that movie, and was prominent to merit an Oscar nomination – it’s not hard to wonder if they were overly stingy with her.

    • delorb says:

      Most people who act in movies get their travel, room and board paid for by the production. It’s kinda standard. Hearing that it didn’t happen in this case is a bit suspect. IMO, it has nothing to do with how much Brad and Cate were paid. If it’s routine to pay for this stuff, then why not her?

      • Geekychick says:

        This! I can’t believe they made her pay, aespecially because for a Fincher movie, that is really not such a great cost-she surely didn’t have a presidential suite. It’s pretty disappointing and…well, disgusting. it’s kind of emotionally blackmaily, too.

  5. Mikeyangel says:

    She was not a nobody when she was in TCCOBB. The fact that she had to pay her own hotel bill is pretty grotesque.

    • Ennie says:

      I live overseas and I had no idea who Taraji was. The known actors to me were Tilda, Brad, Cate. They even base the posters over the best known faces for international markets.
      It is great that she got exposure, she did a good job and it was a film that made the rounds.

      • delorb says:

        Um, you do realize why her face would have been omitted from any posters for the international market, right? I’m frankly tired of having to educate you guys one by one on this issue. Perhaps you can do a bit of research and send it to all your friends? Thanks.

      • Geekychick says:

        That’s great, but even internationally unknown actors get paid their food and rooms. Like, even people in other professions get paid their food and hote while doing their job. It’s common decency.

  6. Scar says:

    Wow. All the white tears in this comment section. Imma sit back and just observe this isht

    • HeidiM says:

      it is getting salty in hurr.

    • Bros says:

      I just think complaining about costar salaries and parts that went to other actresses etc is never a good look for any actress/actor. this whole interview comes off as bad attitude, and I’d say the same for any actor/actress who gave a similar one.

      • BTownGirl says:

        I disagree. She’s insanely talented and wants to be compensated like every other super-talented actress. Considering it took the 2015 premiere of Empire to make her a household name (with a household name paycheck) for a lot of people, I can’t imagine how demoralizing it must have been to work in the industry for as long as she has and be treated as “less-than”. It’s not a bad attitude to expect to be treated as an experienced professional on equal footing with other experienced professionals.

      • Geekychick says:

        Yeah. Maybe the other, white actors aren’t complaining bc they are overpaid. And the other black actors are not speaking up bc of the others like you, bc it would seem “ungrateful” to some.

    • ladysussex says:

      “White” tears? What does that mean?

      • Zeddy says:

        It means that the salty white women complaining about her attitude in this thread are really doing what the old white ladies in the front of the church have always done: get mad at black women when the speak out about the challenges they face, and when they do have typically white experiences and discuss them, the whine about that, too.

    • delorb says:

      Sadly, that is what this place has become. The minute we enlighten some, another group comes along showing everyone their ignorance and we start all over again. “I didn’t know that!” We’re in the information age. Open a book or web page. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Just saw 13th. Hard to watch and depressing, but recommended for all.


  7. Mia4S says:

    There’s no mystery to the St.Vincent thing. It was an independent movie, the money crunchers sat in a room and decided that from their research Watts would add X number of $$$ more to the box office than Henson. Did she really? Eh, probably not. Doesn’t matter, that’s their perception. Film investors are famous for this though. The writer/director/Murray/whomever would have had little say.

  8. dq says:

    I liked her in Baby Boy. That’s all I really remember her in.

    But let me say, Naomi Watts was really funny in St Vincent and I think SHE was made for the part with her fake accent and sexy pregnant look. It was hilarious at times.

  9. freebunny says:

    To be fair, neither her or Watts should play a russian woman.

    • JFresh says:

      Yeah, this. I never bought Naomi in that role. It always seemed a bit like, Wait, what? Oh, okay…I guess? Would have been much more interesting with Taraji (maybe not trying a Russian accent tho)

    • paolanqar says:

      Also Cate Blancehtt was terrible while playing a russian (Ukraine??) character in Indiana Jones.
      Maybe it was meant to be a bit caricaturesque but she sounded awful.

    • Sasha says:

      I agree. The only American I’ve seen to play a Russian decently is Paul Dano in the “War and Peace”. But he was also playing an aristocrat raised in France, not a typical Russian.

      The body language, the facial expressions, the way of speaking are different in Russia even if we look the same as Western Europeans.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        They pretty much made all charachters in War and Peace almost British. That is common, aristocracy is played with British accents ( even ifthey should be speaking French) and criminals and prostitutes have Eastern European ones. Because you can’t be educated and sophisticated AND Eastern European.

      • ladysussex says:

        I dunno Locke Lamora. I have a good friend from Ukraine. She has an MBA. She is very smart and sophisticated, and has always portrayed herself as a business woman. I recently found out that she’s been working as an escort for the last 10 years.

      • Geekychick says:

        Yeah, ladysussex, that one good friend from Ukraine stands for all and every eastern european women. Just like my three ignorant white American friends who know nothing about foreign policy and think global warming is a hoax stand for all of the Americans.
        And let’s not start about opportunities and ways of survival available in some of the countries and regimes in some parts of Eastern Europe. i’m sure all the escorts and se*** slaves from those parts just chose that way of life for the laughs.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      And the stripper had to be Russian? God forbid an Eastern European woman be something other than a stripper or prostitute. Couldn’t the stripper be, I don’t know, Canadian for once?

      • Mae says:

        Lol Canadian and Eastern European aren’t mutually exclusive identities (I happen to be both). I agree with the general point, though.

    • ladysussex says:

      Why not? Why shouldn’t she or Watts play a Russian woman?

      • Sasha says:

        Because I am yet to see an American or British actress actually go into trouble of learning the Russian body language and facial expressions . They play sad caricatures which might look convincing in the US or the UK but look ridiculous to Russians.
        And that doesn’t advance the plot in any way, why bother?

      • Locke Lamora says:

        And I inow Im borin with this, but why did she have to ne Russian in the first place? Why couldnt a white American woman be a stripper?

      • ladysussex says:

        I feel the same way when non-Southern actors play Southerners. It’s always an absurd accent and a caricature.

  10. Jenn4037 says:

    I still can’t wrap my head around her hotel bill not being covered? Does this really happen?

    • perplexed says:

      I vaguely remember a story about the Somali actor who had to foot his own bills when he was doing Oscar promotion (and he was Oscar-nominated).

    • Sasha says:

      On the other hand Russians, for example, are shocked that the US Olympics team is not financed by the state and has to find sponsors to pay all their bills, including the hotel )).

      Different countries have different view of what is the standard business practice.

      I don’t find it shocking at all that actors, who are a sort of independent contractors, are often expected to cover their own costs. It all depends on the contract.

  11. paolanqar says:

    I’m sorry but wasn’t Taraji’s role in Benjamin Button significantly in less than Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett? Her time on screen was not much compared to the 2 main characters.

    • perplexed says:

      Maybe she meant she was being paid the scale rate. I remember some discussion about this in a Naomi Watts post when she discussed not being paid what she thought she should be paid.

      I think there’s probably a minimum lesser known actors are probably supposed to be paid, and I would assume she wasn’t getting paid that amount.

      The lowest of six figures and no hotel bills being paid does sound kind of low even for a lesser known actor in that kind of big-budget production. She didn’t specifically say that she should be paid as much as Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. The comparison seemed to be made by the journalists themselves. I think she was simply pointing out that her individual salary was low (if she says she got paid the lowest of six figures, I think that probably means she only made in the 100 000 dollar range. And for a production of that scale, that salary does look weird even for a much less famous actor).

      • paolanqar says:

        i quote from the article:
        ‘she says she received “the equivalent of sofa change” compared to the salaries of co-stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett’.

        It sounds to me like she is comparing salaries but the onscreen time she had is not even close to Brad’s or Cate’s.

      • perplexed says:

        Her on-screen time was less, but it doesn’t sound like she was paid the scale rate. Getting paid a 100 000 would be less than what a mid-tier soap opera star makes per year. That sounds extremely low for a movie that expensive. I do think her hotel bills could have been paid if she had to do promotion (and she was probably owed that if she managed to get a nomination and had to do Oscar promotion).

        It’s not clear to me who actually made the comparison. All I see is the sofa change expression in direct quotes. I can’t tell what her wording about Brad Pitt or Cate Blanchett actually is. Did she actually compare the salaries, or did the journalists add the comparison (which is not in direct quotes) after she made her statement? Or did the journalists ask her to compare the salaries, and that’s why she said she made “sofa change”? I can’t imagine she herself would be foolish enough to think she could have made the same as Brad Pitt. Most actors don’t since most don’t have his name recognition. Even an actor with more screen-time than him probably wouldn’t be paid the same as him, unless that actor is Tom Cruise.

      • ladysussex says:

        But she said it was “the lowest of six figures”. That’s still more than scale and certainly not sofa change. It was a supporting role.

      • perplexed says:

        How is scale determined? Imo, for a production that’s worth 150 million, I feel that salary is low in relation to the cost of the film. It’s sofa change next to 150 million, imo (especially a film that isn’t about comic book heroes where costs go extremely high for a multitude of reasons).

      • ladysussex says:

        @perplexed: Scale is determined by the Screen Actors Guild. It is a standard amount and not determined by the budget of the movie or what other actors in the film are making. Jonah Hill made $60, 000 (scale) for the co-starring role in The Wolf of Wall Street.

    • Colette says:

      I don’t think she was expecting to make what they made.She probably thought she deserved to make more than (lowest of six figures).The budget for the film was $150M,I thought she would have made at least a million.

      • HH says:

        Also, this doesn’t give the full picture. She made LESS THAN 2% of what Brad made (and was apparently third billing on the script, behind Blanchett). So if she got paid $100K, it means Brad was paid $5M. Even with name recognition and less screen time, that is a VAST difference. Add that to have to pay for location costs, c’mon.

        Also, the name recognition argument…. IT’S ALL PART OF A CYCLE/BIG PICTURE. One of the reasons she doesn’t have name recognition because there are small parts available to AAs. It’s not the same as saying it’s a white, heterosexual male who doesn’t have name recognition.

    • paolanqar says:

      I understand her issue but the wording is a bit misleading.

      • perplexed says:

        They quoted the “equivalent of sofa change” in direct quotes. But I don’t see the names Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in quotes or the word ‘compared’ so it’s still unclear as to who made the actual comparison. I can’t tell if she added that part or the journalist.

    • eto says:

      That’s true, but then why was she there for 3 months paying for her own hotel room?

    • lucy2 says:

      She was definitely in it less and less well known, so sure her pay wouldn’t have been as high as Brad or Cate (I’m guessing Cate got paid a lot less than Brad too).
      But hers was still a significant role, especially if she was there for 3 months filming, and she CERTAINLY should have had her lodging covered by the production. That’s absurd they made her pay out of pocket.

    • Lady Mimosa says:

      Time on screen doesn’t matter Leo and Brad recently got 13 million for a commercial. She will never get what a white male will get, she should at least get what white females get, because she is a great actress.

  12. hey-ya says:

    …well I’d like to say I’ve never understood Naomi Watt’s appeal..she’s totally generic…imagine if Taraji had been the star of Mulholland Drive…she’d be a mega star by now…but anyway Taraji should be happy people actually write roles for her…something 99% of actors dont get…

  13. Katie says:

    I’m not sure I buy the idea that the role of a Russian stripper/prostitute was written for her?

    There are very few Afro-Russians, something like 40,000 in a population of 143 million. Many are now at least a few generations removed from their black ancestor/s, and many more were a result of the Moscow Olympics. It would be extremely unusual for a black Russian woman to find her way to the US via the sex trade/trafficking. Like so incredibly unusual you’d have to address it or employ some major suspension of belief.

    Also, she wasn’t a star or a name at all when Button was made. Low 6 figures and paying your own hotel bill is on the upper end of standard. It’s not unusual or unfair. Acting is not an especially lucrative career until your name is worth something. If all you’re bringing to the table is the acting, and no prestige or publicity, you’re not gonna make millions.

    • Colette says:

      It’s possible the character wasn’t Russian when he wrote it with her in mind.Maybe when the studio said they wanted to go another direction they made the character,Russian.

      Anyway she is working with him the writer/director Theodore Melfi in her new film “Hidden Figures”a true story about three Black female NASA mathematicians.I can’t wait to see it.

      BTW Taraji was very well known BEFORE CCOBB,IMO.

      • perplexed says:

        That’s how I interpreted her comment too. When he first wrote the role, it’s likely the character wasn’t Russian.

      • HH says:

        Right! How is that hard imagine? Like, once they decided on Naomi, it’s not like they couldn’t have switched the character around a little.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        So it was written for her – the stripper was a black woman. Then when they cast Naomi they had to make her Russian. Because a white American woman can’t be a stripper?

    • V4Real says:

      “There are very few Afro-Russians, something like 40,000 in a population of 143 million.”

      Well she could have been one of the 40,000. It’s not a far stretch.

    • perplexed says:

      She may not have been a star in the traditional sense at the time, but I looked at her IMDB, and she seems to have worked on a lot of tv series before being cast in this movie. I don’t know — for someone who had done tv shows like Boston Legal, her salary does seem kind of low to me. I can see why she would have been disappointed with her salary. I could be wrong though.

    • Sasha says:

      “Well she could have been one of the 40,000. It’s not a far stretch.”

      It would be a huge stretch. All of them are at least half-white, not fully black.
      But regardless, Americans can’t play Russians. They never make the effort to learn the body language and the facial expressions.

      • perplexed says:

        The genetics of mixed-race people are unpredictable though. I think it’s possible that a half-white/half-black person could look like her.

      • Goldie says:

        @sasha Every year, thousands of Nigerian girls and women are trafficked and forced into the sex industry in Russia. Just because many Russians are racist doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t hire a black prostitute or stripper. It’s the same way that racist white slave-masters used to rape their black female slaves. It actually makes sense, if you think about it. Some Racist white men may enjoy forcing black women to perform degrading sex acts.

        That said, I read that the character in St. Vincent wasn’t originally Russian.

        ETA: the comment I was responding to was deleted.

      • V4Real says:


        I know mixed raced people who have one Black parent and one White parent and they don’t necessarily look like Mariah Carey or Derek Jeter. They are actually the skin tone of Tariji. Mix race people come in all shades and forms. My friend mother is Black Jamaican and her father is White. Her skin tone is light but her sister’s skin tone is the shade of Taraji. We know Halle Berry is bi-racial but my shade of skin is the same as hers and I’m not bi-racial. Both my parents are Black. The only major difference is that my maternal grandmother was half Native American. Like @perplexed said the genetic of mixed- race people are unpredictable.

        Did you know Wentworth Miller was half Black? See, unpredictable.

      • Sasha says:

        I am Russian. I only speak from my experience of what I saw in Russia.
        A simpler answer could’ve been to make her a Nigerian or an African-American.

        I see somebody already commented below that the part was changed to a Russian after Naomi was cast.

      • Nn says:

        Naomi doesnt look russian either. She looks like the typical anglo saxon white.
        Russians and slavics have their own distinctive looks so they should have hired an actual russian actress for this part.

  14. Kells-Bells says:

    I like Taraji and I’m glad she’s become star.
    Re: Benjamin Button and her hotel bill:
    SAG (Screen Actors Guild,) has strict rules protecting their union members. I was on a Woody Allen set back the late 90s, and the SAG extras were being fed peanut butter and jelly for lunch – as where the regular extras. The SAG extra actors called the SAG Office and a union rep was on the set, ASAP.
    Production was halted until negotiations could be made. I think the SAG extras ended up getting an extra $150 extra for their day rate. There were at least 20 SAG extras.
    The rules to become SAG eligible back in the 90s were booking three SAG gigs – then you had to join. If you booked a big budget movie/series with a starring or supporting role, and working for an extended period of time, you also have to join.
    Joining makes you eligible for health insurance, dental, life insurance, etc.
    also, you get a daily Per-diem on long shoots.
    I don’t know if she tried to call her SAG rep or not , but her agent/manager should have fought for her on that.

  15. Goldie says:

    I remember reading an interview with one of the filmmakers of St. Vincent when it was released. ( forget whether it was the director or screenwriter) He didn’t mention Taraji, but he confirmed that the stripper character was originally supposed to be African-American. He claimed that the studio wanted a well-known name, so the character was rewritten as a Russian stripper instead of a black one.
    So anyways, I believe Taraji.

  16. lucy2 says:

    I unexpectedly liked St. Vincent, and Naomi in her role, but Taraji would have been great as well. It’s a shame she was shut out of the movie.

    Very excited to see Hidden Figures.

  17. Lolo says:

    She’s sooo delusional. Jonah hill got paid 50k for the “Wolf of Wall street” and he’s an established actor and no one knew her name before “Empire”

    • perplexed says:

      He agreed to a pay-cut though. He wanted badly to work with Martin Scorcese so he was willing to cut his salary from multi-millions (why he’s originally paid that in the first place, I have no idea). He took the option of a lower salary. Taraji P Henson didn’t take a pay-cut for vanity purposes — she had to be content with the most extreme minimum to get herself in the door.

      I suppose one could argue that Taraji P. Henson also took an option, but I still think the cases are different from a systemic standpoint. Had Taraji Henson declined the role because of the salary, the role would have gone to someone else also willing to take the extreme minimum and her career would have taken a hit because she didn’t establish herself. Had Jonah Hill declined the lower salary, his career would most likely still be fine. His opportunities wouldn’t have been reduced by declining one role, even if taking the role in Wolf of Wall Street for a lower salary did expand them in terms of being perceived as a better actor.

      • Lolo says:

        @perplexed, sure his career would be fine. Cause Hollywood doors are so open for non-standard awkward looking chubby men.
        Here’s the huge list of other successful not “model looking” overweight actors: Zach Galifianakis.
        Johan worked hard and made right career choices, as ANYONE who’s successful.

      • perplexed says:

        My point is that his salary was cut down from the multi-millions. This wasn’t the only salary he was going to have to deal with systemically over the long haul since his multi-million dollar salary was the standard that had been set already for him (the Hollywood Reporter mentioned his regular salary). He was taking a pay-cut. I really don’t think Taraji was taking a pay-cut. That was my main contention. Yes, he made the right choices, but at the time the negotiation for his salary was made, he was ALREADY successful and had networked his way to a position of security, not someone in a precarious, uncertain position. This point shouldn’t be hard to understand.

        And, in all honesty, I don’t think Hollywood has that much of a problem with casting ordinary looking men. It’s the women who are judged far more harshly for looks, which is why I assume his love interest in 22 Jump Street was 100 times better looking than him (the disparity in looks between the female and him was glaring and distracting to the point of me wondering whether a woman who looked like that would actually go out with him in real life if he didn’t have money).

      • ladysussex says:

        MANY actors/actresses trying to break into film will take “most extreme minimum” (still more than most Americans make in 2 years! for 3 months of work!) to get a film role, especially with super high profile actors in the top billing. She was a TV actress. She made more than scale.

      • perplexed says:

        But the comparison used was Jonah Hill, and I think his situation was very different when he decided to opt for a lower salary. If he was an up and comer, I can understand why the comparison was used, but in this case, the situation under which he negotiated his salary was different from a systemic standpoint.

        His situation strikes me as more similar to a high profile actor who chooses to take a much, much lower salary than he’s grown accustomed to in order to make a passion project come true or because he wants to work with a director everybody on the planet wants to work with, not because he knows he might be discarded by the industry if he decides not to take that one specific role. That was my point in this particular instance.

    • Almondjoy says:

      Maybe YOU didn’t know her before Benjamin Button. She was already an established actress and I knew her name since the late 90s.

      • Lolo says:

        Good for you :) I meant worldwide success that brings box office. The fact that she compared her salary to Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt who are carrying the movie is hilarious

      • Almondjoy says:

        Thanks for being more specific. The fact still stands that even if she WAS as famous and well known as Cate and Brad, she would have made less anyway since black actors get paid less than their white counterparts.

      • Lolo says:

        If you reverse the situation, I very much doubt that Will Smith, Halle Berry or Samuel L Jackson are paid less than any supporting white actor in their movies. Look up their net worth and divide by the number of movies (it would be a very rough estimate, but still). These guys have hundreds of millions and it’s well deserved. The audience loves them. It’s not a question of race, but of popularity/ability to carry the movie. For example, Will Smith is insanely popular across the world (including Asian and Easter European countries), which doesn’t happen to any American actor.

      • perplexed says:

        Will Smith and Samuel L Jackson are more of the exceptions to the rule. I’m not sure about Halle Berry, because Viola Davis says even women like Halle Berry have a hard time getting good roles. Berry might get paid a substantial amount, but good roles in general will be much less for her by virtue of her gender and race.

        White male actors seem to generally be paid a lot even when nobody really gives two hoots about some of them. Do that many people really care about Ryan Reynolds? I doubt it, but be he gets paid substantially, even after a movie has bombed. Meanwhile, Will Smith HAS to be the number one box office star in the world over a consistent period of time to get the salary he does, whereas I don’t necessarily think a white male actor is required to be the same to make a lot of money.

        I also think a white female actress like Julia Roberts will be given some leeway on having a box-office bomb whereas I’m not entirely sure if Halle Berry is. Berry has retained her fame but her actual’ career doesn’t seem to be in the same good position that Roberts’s career is and Roberts has starred in a lot of duds.

      • Almondjoy says:

        What Perplexed said… mentioning a few black actors that get top billing still doesn’t negate the fact that black actors and especially black women get paid less than their white counterparts. Simple research can give you proof of that but I’ll just let it go… not sure what more I can say since you’re refusing to accept the facts that commenters are offering.

    • lucy2 says:

      Plenty of people knew her before Empire – she was nominated for an Oscar for Benjamin Button. Plus she was in a number of movies and successful shows before Empire.

      • Lolo says:

        Like what? checked out her IMDB. The only popular project she was in before “The curious case…”was Boston Legal. Not much to brag about

    • Lady Mimosa says:

      Lol, People barely know who Jonah is, you gave it backwards. Have you ever heard of Hustle and Flow. She was on Person of Interest for three years before Empire.

      • Lolo says:

        Yeah, which makes her equally talented and acclaimed as Pitt and Blanchett. sure

      • Lady Mimosa says:

        @ logo,Blanchett is talented but neither her nor Brad Pitt have multiple nominations like Taraji. Brad Pitt is not talented either. Did you actually read IMDB, you do know CBS and Fox are mainstream tv channels, right.

  18. Marianne says:

    I can understand her not getting paid as much as Brad or Cate, as they did/do have more name recognition than her. But its ridiculous she had to pay her for her own lodgings while working on that film.

  19. Catelina says:

    On the one hand, a lot of actors more famous and bankable than her take smaller deals to work on prestige projects that can get them more clout/acclaim/recognition moving forward. She also didn’t have much screen time in Benjamin Button, probably in the ballpark of 15 minutes. As opposed to Brad Pitt who was in nearly every single scene, and was obviously a more well known star.

    I think low 6 figures would sound pretty reasonable to me given all of that, IF they had also paid for her hotel accommodations. It was a long shoot too, nobody should have to do that. That is just messed up, and I’m angry she had to go through that.

    • perplexed says:

      Whenever I’ve read about famous actors taking smaller pay they usually have some back-end deal worked in (I think that’s what Leonardo DiCaprio did for Inception, and he ended up making more in the long run than if had taken his usual salary. And then there was Keanu making a bajillion dollars off The Matrix movies after he took some kind of back-end deal instead of the usual up-front salary). Those actors seem to know that those movies will be successful because of the story, and are willing to take a risk on cutting salary that usually turns out to be the best thing they could have done for themselves money-wise.

      But I do think Taraji Henson’s situation is quite different. She basically had no choice but to take the role for that salary (without hotel accommodations paid), because I think they would have gone to the next actress on the list if she had said no. Conversely, someone like Halle Berry who is really famous, probably would have been priced out of the role from the get-go, and I wonder if the producers would have even bothered to offer the role to her for the price she would have felt she was worth. Like, I wonder if even Halle Berry has Leo Dicpario’s option of creating a back-end deal for herself. I only hear these deals working out for white male actors.

      I do feel as though whatever salary Taraji would have made would have probably gone down a fair amount once you factor in hotel accommodations. The only way I could see her retaining most of her salary is if she stayed at a motel, as opposed to a hotel (or a motel masquerading as a hotel. Well, maybe she got free Continental breakfast, I guess).

      • Amy says:

        Yeah the one thing that’s drawing a red flag for me is that her role in Benjamin Button was pretty small. I understand that perhaps some of her scenes were cut and so she had a smaller role in the final film but it wasn’t anymore than 15 minutes screen time. Would she really have to stick around production for the whole duration? Not being paid hotel expenses when you’re on set for 3 months seems so unfair but I find it difficult to believe that she was needed for those 3 months. It’s not like there were any action scenes, in which case filming could take weeks to finish each scene.

        I do think there is a massive parity generally but I can’t help but think Taraji’s version of events are exaggerated. I really do not understand why she would have needed a hotel for the whole duration. It seems more sensible to go back and forth (though that is presuming that production would have to pay for her travel expenses).

        Regardless, I would have expected her to get a higher salary, although I do not find this is the most gregarious example of WOC being underpaid.

  20. Roller74 says:

    I like Taraji, but I know she tends toward the dramatic, so I’m not always sure if her ‘version’ of events is 100% accurate.

    • Taxi says:

      I liked her in Person of Interest, don’t remember her in Benjamin Button & liked her less after her big scene at a restaurant & loud accusations that her son was unfairly profiled & stopped by a white cop. She later apologized for the anti-cop rant when it turned out that her son had not been truthful about his traffic stop. She’s gotten pretty loud about all the times she thinks she’s been slighted. She’s a good actress in certain roles but she’s not the only good black actress – Thandie Newton, Naomie Harris, Olivia Spencer, Angela Bassett, Audra MacDonald and many others have at least as much talent as Taraji.

  21. perplexed says:

    Maybe she was technically paid to scale, but I wonder how much was left after hotel bills and food and taxes.

    Sure, the average American doesn’t make as much, but we’re comparing her salary to other people in her profession, not to a person in another industry. Courtesy was extended to Jennifer Lawrence and Naomi Watts when they talked about their salaries in that regard — i.e Hollywood terms — so it’s from that vantage point I’m viewing Taraji P. Henson’s salary.

    I vaguely remember people arguing that Naomi Watts might not have been paid to scale according to her status/value/category (that seemed to be the implication), so based on that I assumed Taraji P. Henson wasn’t being paid her full worth either.

  22. Kori says:

    After reading her story of abuse maybe it sheds more light on her defense of Terrence Howard. You’d think an a used woman would run screaming but it says her boyfriend was able to get help and be a part of their son’s life. Maybe she sees that with Howard. Not saying it’s right or wrong or agreeing or not. Just that with that example before her she may have a different prism she views it through.

  23. emma says:

    Is it common to have to foot your own hotel bill? For three months on a movie?? That seems so ridiculous!!! How sad.

    • Elizabeth says:

      If she was having to pay her own hotel bills on a 3 month shoot she really needed to get a better Agent and/or Manager.
      All the kinds of details like salary, day rates, per diems and accom are hashed out in your contract negotiations before you step foot on set.

  24. perplexed says:

    Taraji P. Henson’s role in Benjamin Button was small, but so was Judi Dench’s role in Shakespeare in Love that she won the Oscar for. I think she was in that movie for 8 minutes (but the 8 minutes were good enough to snag a win). I’m wondering how much Judi Dench was paid, and if she had to pay her own hotel bills. (And I don’t think of Dench has a box-office star in the traditional sense, despite her having had a long career).

  25. FF says:

    Wow, the subtext in some of these comments. Some posters need to unpack.

    • Lady Mimosa says:

      I know,racists much….

    • Almondjoy says:

      It’s sickening. A trend I notice on this site whenever a black woman speaks up about her experience… people fall over themselves to invalidate what she says.

    • Geekychick says:

      I find especially disturbing how unapologetic and seemingly ignorant they come across. They just keep spouting the same old, and their logical fallacies are out of this world. Unbelievable.

  26. yepIsaidIt says:

    Brad pitt fans have already turned on her. *eye roll*