Taraji P. Henson’s star has risen tremendously over the past two years. The 46-year-old actress with nearly 20 years in the business has enjoyed breakout success thanks to her role as Cookie Lyon on FOX’s Empire. But as Taraji reveals in her recently released memoir, Around the Way Girl, she almost turned down the role.
“‘I don’t want to do this,’ I said [to my manager.] ‘I’ve done this before: she’s street, she’s hood. I don’t need to do this again,'” wrote Henson in the 240-page tell-all. By that point in her career, Taraji had acted in movies like Hustle & Flow, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Think Like A Man so she didn’t have any interest in returning to the small screen for a part she’d played before. But alas, Taraji took the role as a challenge, compelling “viewers and critics alike [to] see past her troubles and straight into her heart.”
Now in its third season, Empire’s ferocious, fierce, and fabulous Cookie Lyon has earned Taraji two Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama. As Taraji writes in the book, when she embraced Cookie, she began to see more of herself in the character.
“I quickly came to embrace Cookie because she is, to some extent, me. I’m that girl with whom everyday woman identifies. I’m that struggle. Hell, I’m the American dream. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I didn’t study at Juilliard, I didn’t grow up in a mansion… I’m not some fantasy. I’m tangible.”
For all the scoop on Taraji’s rise in Hollywood’s ranks, grab her first memoir Around the Way Girl, out now.