Behind the Scenes With Taraji P Henson
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I remember the first time I saw Taraji P. Henson in “Baby Boy” directed by John Singleton. I wouldn’t have guested that thirteen years later I would be sitting down to chat with the multi-talent actress. Her energy and enthusiasm immediately caught my attention and I sensed she was very down too earth and knew how to have a good time. Her personality was honest, free and inviting. She also had a beyond adorable, infectious giggle, that would spontaneously burst out.
Henson found a way to break out of the stereotypical or type casted roles many actresses are faced with. She even managed to work her way up the Hollywood ladder to be considered an A list actress with an Oscar nomination for her role in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” opposite mega star Brad Pitt.
In her latest endeavor, hitting theaters this Friday April 25th, Henson plays Catana Starks in, “From the Rough.” Based on a true story, Henson portrays how Starks, an everyday woman, overcomes the unthinkable and manages to become the first female and African American woman to coach a men’s college golf team. “Dr. Catana Starks was a regular women, she wasn’t a celebrity, she wasn’t a movie star, she just believed in something and did it,” Henson said.
Henson teamed up with the late Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Felton as she depicts the strong minded and resilient Starks. Henson lowered her voice in remembrance as she spoke of Duncan, “…it was such a joy to work with Michael. We formed a little family and Michael was part of our family, so when he died it felt like we lost a family member. The character he plays in the film will steal your heart!”
Seeing the role as an opportunity to showcase a positive image to young girls, Henson was immediately compelled to play the part. She was also enthusiastic about playing the role of a female coach, a character that is rarely seen on film.
Henson was able to meet with Starks and described her respect and astonishment for her record-breaking championship wins. Starks told Henson not to worry about walking and talking like her in the movie but that she had faith in Henson to tell her story the way it should be told.
Henson however, felt that the film was not about her, “this project is beyond me. It has nothing to do with me, I was just an instrument in helping to get this amazing story out,” she notes.
As we discussed Starks perseverance, I asked Henson how she found strength in her own life, “I believe in something more then human. I believe in God. I also believe in myself. I believe in hard work. Any successful person will tell you that you have to work hard and believe in yourself, even when everyone else is laughing at you. It takes that kind of tenacity,” she said with conviction, “and that is what I do. There is no secret formula, anyone can do the same thing.”
In addition to her belief in God, Henson also feeds her spirit by mediating and finding quiet time so she can take inventory of her own thoughts.
As we further discuss Henson’s career and the many characters she has played, I asked her what excites her about acting. The arts are very powerful for Henson because it is the vehicle that helped her move forward in life. “ I grew up in the hood,” Henson admits, ”and the arts saved my life and got me out of the hood. It is a big part of my life. It has made me who I am and the woman I am. I know how powerful that is, because through this gift God gave me, I can touch other people. I can change a life, like how the arts did for me.”
The longer we spoke, I could see that Henson was a woman who not only aspires to help others but also has a strong character not afraid to push the envelope. She doesn’t shy away from playing characters that may be considered by some unworthy of being portrayed. “A lot of times I play characters that other people would judge. People may ask why is she playing that pregnant ho, or the baby mama. The reason I play them is because they exist also and they need a voice. They need to see their story too. They may come to the theater and say oh my god, that is me and I need to change.”
Just like Starks has changed the course of many lives, I get the sense that Henson is doing just that.
By Naja Hill; For more entertainment news follow me on Twitter @najahill.