The manner in which Taraji P. Henson lives, moves, and has her being—is in a word, impressive (but far from surprising). Born and raised in Washington, D.C., the Golden Globe awarded actress arrived in Hollywood nearly two decades ago – with $700 in her hand, a toddler by her side, and the sheer determination to become a star. Refusing to become labeled anything less than successful, Henson began crafting a string of sui generis performances that would garner global recognition, longevity, and above all else, respect.
Equipped with a flair for the dramatic, Taraji’s out-front personality soon made a case for the fresh-faced actress, to topple barriers intended to block her path to stardom. She ignored naysayers who told her she was too ‘this’, or too ‘that’, and made it her personal pledge to honor her gift by trusting the process, and doing the work. She dismissed criticisms that sought to relegate her performances as second-rate, by turning a handful of cameos into a burgeoning platform that rests beneath boom mics and bright lights. Instead of trotting a path of mediocrity, Henson took bold chances that have frightened, challenged, and ignited her pursuit to protect what she valued most (her dreams). Through the rapid maturation of svelte performance techniques and clarity of vision, Taraji landed a barrage of television roles which added a new layer of entertainment value for audiences to enjoy: ‘Smart Guy’ (1997), ‘ER’ (1998), ‘Sister, Sister’ (1999), ‘Division’ (2002-2004), ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ (2005). And just like that, a star was born.
T.P.H., proved forthright and honest in her on-screen characterizations: so-much-so, she caught the attention of famed producer-director John Singleton and was offered a role in the classic coming of age drama ‘Baby Boy’, 2001 (arguably the most memorable performance by a newcomer). To this day, each time we see Henson (Yvette) and co-star Tyrese Gibson (Jody) paired to present an award or share a photo-opp, fans wait patiently (at the ready) for a casual re-enactment between the two on-screen lovebirds. The nostalgic re-telling of their young romance quietly stifles itself beneath a thunderous applause, that is both well-deserved and long overdue.
As a highly sought-after actress with a plane of diversity that broadens with time, Henson has nailed some of her best co-branded performances alongside elite A-list actors: Brad Pitt, Terrence Howard, Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett, Kevin Costner, Octavia Butler, Mary J. Blige, and relative newcomer Janelle Monae. And here’s the best part: gone are the days when the “Hustle & Flow” actress can be seen pounding the pavement for casting auditions and callbacks. Nowadays, the ‘Hidden Figures’ starlet takes meetings and accepts scripts written with her on-camera jooge in mind. The most recent television role fashioned for Henson – centers around the openly crass family matriarch ‘Cookie Lyon (“Empire”, 2016 Golden Globe-nominated drama series | written by: Lee Daniels, Danny Strong), who does whatever it takes to keep her family and personal legacy intact. The artistic agency Taraji uses to make sure the ‘Cookie’ never crumbles, resulted in a well-deserved win for Best TV Drama Actress (Golden Globes, 2016). During her acceptance speech, the ‘No Good Deed’ phenom spoke candidly about her rise to fame: making it clear the glass ceiling has been broken, and she holds the shard covered Louisville slugger to prove it.
Through masterful displays of confidence (a genetic byproduct of her late father’s efforts to stand strong), artistic truism, and the feminist-ferocity (adopted from her mother): Henson creates a standard for performing that is simply superb. As new jaunts for silver-screen domination persist, Taraji prepares to wow box office audiences with an electrifying performance in ‘Proud Mary’ (Screen Gems thriller, currently in production); the story of a hit woman who meets a young boy and uncovers the maternal perspective that changes her life. Billed as yet another ace in the hand of a masterful thespian, the ‘Person of Interest’ cast mate is certain to tap into new facets of her gift, to pull out yet another encore performance.
The ever-witty, beautiful, and eager-to-win Henson, has a unique way of breathing life into characters by ripping away industry stamps, challenging the machismo of Hollywood, and refusing to accept roles that mock stereotypes (to ensure a display of the real reel). ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ starlet takes great care to present fans with the opportunity to connect with characters, and the chance to determine whether we believe and trust the evolution of what we see, especially when it chronicles her rise to fame. So let’s be clear, and call it the way we see it. What we are witnessing is the crest of the Taraji takeover; a motion picture and television success story; fueled by accomplishments that are analogous and second to none. Not then, not now, not ever.