As she further establishes herself as a force in Hollywood, Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson opens up on love, the need to compete and why she’s glad she didn’t win the Oscar.
Words and Styling by Darius Baptist Photography by Miguel Starcevich Hair by Marcia Hamilton Makeup by Mylah Morales Location courtesy of Dim Mak Studios
t’s a beautiful, late summer afternoon in Hollywood, California and amid the chaos of setting up lights, wardrobe and last minute touches that need to be executed before her arrival, Taraji P. Henson has entered the building and no one seemed to notice.
Greeting everyone with either a firm handshake or hug, Taraji puts down her purse and informs everyone that she’s “ready to make magic today.” Where most people would expect an actress of this caliber to have an enormous entourage, and give a pre-shoot list of outrageous demands, Taraji is quite the opposite. As she puts it, “I’m just Taraji from the block. I don’t travel with ridiculous security and a ton of unnecessary people.”
But don’t get the wrong idea – the acclaimed actress has every right to snap into diva mode if need be. Taraji has starred in films with some of the biggest blockbuster stars of our generation. She has played opposite Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (for which she received the Oscar nod), co-starred alongside Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in this year’s Larry Crowne and held her own next to Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night. And who could forget her in 2010’s hugely successful, The Karate Kid, with Jackie Chan and young Jaden Smith?
To some, Taraji is most notably remembered for her roles in Hustle & Flow with Terrence Howard and the cult classic Baby Boy, starring Tyrese Gibson, which to this day lives on in heavy rotation on various cable networks. When asked what it is about Baby Boy that has resonated with people after all these years, Taraji is quick to point out, “Baby Boy wasn’t just a black movie. Everyone can relate to a baby boy to some degree. He is not a color; he’s a person. I remember when John Singleton (the film’s director) sat both myself and Tyrese down in the beginning of filming and told us that he wanted to make a film that people would want to watch 17 times, and judging by how much it has been in rotation, I think John’s mission is accomplished.”
Consistently challenging herself with role choices, the Washington, D.C. native has recently landed herself, not one, but two projects that will bump her up the Who’s Who list in Hollywood. First up was Lifetime’s original true story film, Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which earned Taraji an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries. Next, she’s coming back to television with a lead character in the new CBS crime drama Person of Interest by creator J.J. Abrams, also starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson.
The seasoned star jumped at the opportunity to portray these contrasting roles for varying reasons. In Taken from Me, Taraji plays a single mother that goes to great lengths to reunite with her son that was taken away from her. “For that role, I was able to draw from my own personal experiences. Being a single mother myself, I was able to fully understand what a situation like that would do to you,” she explains. “Although I spoke to Tiffany once on the telephone, I really didn’t need to. I was able to connect to this, mother to mother. Me being the person I am, I would have gone about it a little differently, perhaps kicking doors down and rolling in with guns firing, but in the end a mother’s love is just that, a mother’s love.”