She may have been killed off on Person of Interest but that didn’t stop Taraji P. Henson’s flow. She wanted to be written out because she wanted to pursure movies while roles were there for the post-40 actress. Not only did she just host BET’s Celebration of Gospel 2014, she’s in three movies this year, she’s also scored the lead for the Fox show Empire, created by Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels.
We caught up with the single mother, Oscar nominee and Howard graduate to talk life, love and her latest movie, the golf drama From The Rough.
Blackamericaweb.com: Tell me about the new movie you have coming out.
From the Rough hits theaters April 25. It’s the true story about this amazing woman Dr. Catana Starks. She’s the first woman to take an all-male golf team to the NCAA Division 1 championship and win. From an HBCU by the way. Her record to this day has yet to be beaten. One her players went on the coach Tiger Woods. This film is in theaters but it was delayed for a while. When you have a film starring an African-American woman the taboo in the industry is that we can’t open films or that they don’t do well. So it makes it very difficult for stories like this to be told. It was hard getting it to this point and we did. We’re only being released in 200 theaters. So for the people who are always saying ‘We want better role models. We want to see women in a better light.’ Go out there and support it.
You’re also in Think Like A Man Too.
It was a lot of fun. A lotta, lotta fun. We filmed it in Vegas. One of the couples gets married. That’s all I can tell you or I’ll have to kill you. They’e been doing like test screenings…we were all in the Bahamas celebrating [producer] Will Packer’s birthday this weekend. Tim Story, the director was there and he told me that people who’ve seen it say it’s funnier than the first one. Some say it’s better than the first one. I can’t wait to see it with an audience. I’ve seen it in bits and pieces and it looks amazing.
What’s happening with Empire?
Well, we did it. It’s in the can. [Lee Daniels]said he had six days to edit it and then turn it in to studio and network. Now we wait. It was amazing. The story is out of this world and if Fox has the guts to pick it up, it will change the face of prime-time television.
What? Like that?
It’s trying to compete with the cable shows without going all the way there and offending everybody. This show is multi-layered. This show is about a family. So it’s more so Sopranos. You’ve never seen Black people like this, never ever. My character is Cookie and I’m married to Terence Howard’s character, Lucious. We have three sons, we met when we were really young in Philly. We were around 16 when we had our first one. Lucious is all the talent. He’s like this big Jay-Z guy but back in the day to start this record label, we sold drugs. So I get busted on one of the drops and instead of snitching and bringing everybody down she thought about her family. Lucious couldn’t go to jail, because he’s the talent and what about my three sons? So she decides to sacrifice and she goes to jail for 17 years. Nobody comes to visit her but her one son, who is gay. We’re attacking the whole taboo of being Black and gay. Black people just don’t deal with it. We shun our sons when they come out. I think it’s gotten better, but it’s still a problem in the Black community. Who else is dealing with that on prime-time television? If you notice all my tweets about it and Instagrams, I never hashtag Fox because I’m not hashtagging anything until the ink dries.
I read something really interesting today online. We’re coming up on graduations and you went to Howard, right? I read a story about a woman who has a graduate degree from Harvard who said being at an HBCU really prepared her for Harvard as well as for life. Can you speak to that?
I think going to an HBCU is where I found my identity as an African-American woman in the world. When you go to public school they don’t really teach you anything about your history. Yeah, they call us African-American but what does that really mean? Africa is such a huge continent. I didn’t really get a full understanding of who I am as Black woman in America until I went to an HBCU. And then training in theatre at an HBCU was even better because there you got to play roles that Hollywood would never let me play. It enhanced my creativity as if I went to Harvard and they decided to do The Taming of the Shrew. I would have never played the lead role in that. I would have been in the chorus which makes you believe you belong there in life. I know I’m #1 on the call sheet. I know I belong in the forefront. I know my talent and because I went to an HBCU they nurtured that.
You were recently on the Tom Joyner Morning Show saying that you are not engaged. But is it easier or harder to date as a celebrity/actress?
Where did that even come from? It’s so hard. It’s so hard. And the more my star rises, the harder it gets. You just don’t know what people’s agendas are. But I know. I’m a good reader. That’s made it harder for me to date because a lot of guys are so infatuated by me because of what I do. And I don’t want a fan, I want a man. I want a man who’s going to call me on my stuff and say ‘No babe, you’re wrong and not care that I’m the actress. Admire that and be proud of it but that’s not who I am. I’m a real person.
So where do you find your dates? Do you have the same pool that any other women does or if you date a garbage man are you going to get blown up on the blogs because of it?
I don’t even care what people say but in my experience of dating men that are not the breadwinners, it’s a problem. And I can say that from experience. I have been in a relationship where I was the breadwinner and it became a problem. They get insecure and they say little things. I’ve been around before social media took off so I’ve seen this whole shift. Whoever the guy is, he has to be secure and it’s hard to do that with everybody all up in your business. We’re all beautifully flawed but your baggage has to match mine. (Laughs).
You went through the whole Oscar campaign season. Watching Lupita go through it, do you have any advice for her down the line?
Keep smiling. Just keep smiling. As fast as it comes is as fast as it goes. And just stay relevant. When was I nominated? I’m still relevant. I’ve got three movies out this year. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about that one moment.
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