Taraji P. Henson, Empire, Lee Daniels, Summer 2015

Taraji P. Henson, Empire

Taraji P. Henson Is One Tough Cookie

Happy birthday, @TherealTaraji!


Happy birthday, TherealTaraji!

Empire 's Taraji Henson stars on W's August Cover. Read her exclusive interview here.

but saw it more as a TV show, along the lines of popular ’80s series like

that kind of fluidity greatly appealed to Daniels. “And I wanted to finally make some money,” he told me. “You don’t make any money doing independent films, even if they get nominated for the Oscars and the world says you’re a genius. Doesn’t pay the bills.”

so he persuaded Henson to audition. “I was like, This is stupid,” recalled Henson, who had just left CBS’s successful

During her audition—a Skype session with Daniels, who was in Japan—Henson insisted that the Academy Award–nominated actor Terrence Howard play Lucious Lyon, Cookie’s ex. Henson had worked with Howard in 2005’s

When Henson demanded that Daniels hire Howard, Daniels remembered thinking, “This bitch just Cookied me! So I made them do a screen test to see if they had chemistry.” Henson, to her credit, put her ego aside and played along. “If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on Cookie. Or, they would have missed out on me, honey.” She laughed. “You can see my head growing!”

without Henson. From the first episode, where Cookie emerges from a 17-year prison stint in a three-quarter-length white fur coat over a skintight jaguar-print mini, she is instantly riveting. And that’s before she even opens her mouth. Cookie is the queen of the hilarious put-down: When she tries to get rid of Lucious’s new fiancée, she quips, “If you want Cookie’s nookie, ditch the bitch.” Then there’s the episode in which she beats an artist on their label in a drinking contest, throws her legs in the air in the backseat of an SUV, and seduces her newest love interest with the order “Take these cookies!”

is the season’s No. 1 broadcast series with adults 18 to 49 and has unseated

In real life, Henson has similarities to her character. She grew up in a working-class family in Washington, D.C., and, from the age of 5, she knew she wanted to be an actress. After a failed foray into electrical engineering (“It sounded like I was going to make a lot of money”), Henson majored in theater at Howard University. During her junior year, she became pregnant. When her son was still a toddler, they moved to Los Angeles so she could pursue acting. “It was a struggle,” Henson remembered. “But my son grew as my career grew. I never had a nanny—I did TV so I could be home with him. I wasn’t making my millions, but I was able to fulfill my dreams

Read more: W magazine

TherealTaraji So gorgeous ❤️

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