Taraji P. Henson: Telling It Like It Is
Taraji P. Henson made her way onto the movie screen back in 2001 as “Yvette” in the film Baby Boy. She was the girlfriend and “baby mama” of an unemployed, selfish and immature guy named “Jody,” played by Actor and Singer Tyrese Gibson. But Henson’s roles in films steer far away from just the typical “ghetto baby mama” of role. She has starred in films such as Hustle & Flow, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I Can Do Bad All By Myself, just to name a few. With such amazing talent, Henson is sure to continue on the path to success. Henson was born and raised in Washington, DC and she knew from a very young age that she wanted to pursue a career on stage. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she told reporters “When I was in kindergarten and we were graduating, they had certain people speak. I got up and I was loud and funny and charismatic and the audience laughed and I thought oh my God, I love this feeling. I want this again.”
She eventually went on to audition to get into a local performing arts high school, but she was not accepted. Regardless, she had no plans of giving up on a career that she dreamed of. Henson started off attending North Carolina A&T University, but after failing a class, she knew for sure that pre-engineering was not for her. She left and entered Howard University to study drama. Her first professional job as an actress was for the television show “Smart Guy,” and that role led to her being on the sitcom series “Sister Sister” and from there she continued doing other small roles which led to her big break in John Singleton’s film “Baby Boy.”
Many actors and actresses like their jobs because it allows them to transform into a different person even if it’s only for a minute. They get to do something out of the norm that they probably would never do. But for Henson she describes acting as being “very therapeutic.”
“Its my shrink. I heal myself a lot through a lot of my characters because I draw from my own personal experiences,” she told Nicole Symmonds of BeliefNet.com. In I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Henson played an alcoholic singer named “April” who ends up raising her teenage niece and two nephews whose mother was on drugs and their grandmother who had been raising them goes missing. April has to make a decision between her old selfish ways or living a life filled with family, faith and the possibility of true love.
One of her biggest roles was when she played the character of “Queenie” in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Henson who received the script had no idea that she was already being considered for the role. “The casting director said that she had seen Hustle and Flow, and knew right then that I should play Queenie—she said that whenever my character left the screen, you missed her, and that’s the feeling she wanted for Queenie, that maternal, yearning feeling,” Henson told TheDailyBeast.com.
Her role in this film led to her being nominated for “Best Supporting Actress,” for an OscarAward. Although she didn’t get the award, she was not upset according to an interview with YRB Magazine.
“I really am glad that I didn’t win the Oscar that year. [African-American actors] have already won awards for playing those types of characters. I’m ready for us to win by [acting in] a comedy or a love story or just something different than the norm.”
But what is it that draws people to Taraji? For one, Henson will tell you that she’s still Taraji from the block. “I think people relate to me because I’m real,” she states. “What you see is what you get. I am always the same person. Anyone who ever says that I’m conceited or self-absorbed honestly doesn’t know anything about me. If you follow my Twitter timeline, you will see that I really am one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you will ever meet,” she told YRB Magazine.
So what’s next for Henson is what you’re probably wondering. Well you will be able to catch her in the films Larry Crowe that stars Actors Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and From The Rough which is about a swim coach who leads her schools’ men’s golf team to success. She’ll also be apart of Steve Harvey’s movie Think Like A Man which is based off of his book “Act Like a Lady and Think Like a Man.” Acting as you may know by now is her first love, but when things start to slow down she has plans on trying something behind the scenes.
“When things start sagging and I don’t look the same, I would like to get into producing. To produce and direct is a lesson learned, and that is something that I would like to embark on further down the line. As for now, I want to continue to just play the game. I want my journey to be legendary. To have people study my work the way I studied Bette Davis would mean so much to me. God has a plan for me to be here, and I’m here to do just what it is that He will have me do,” she told YRB Magazine.