Hollywood’s a funny place. You can have a fantastic career—featuring excellent work in, say, Hustle & Flow and an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—and then you land one role and literally everything changes.
That’s what happened with Taraji P. Henson, who was already a very successful actress when she became Cookie Lyon on Fox’s hip-hop hit Empire (Wednesday, 9/8c), which begins its third season tonight. This rather splashy role has brought Henson a whole new level of fame, fortune, film offers and more.
And those trimmings serve as just more evidence that the D.C. native has come a long way from playing “Girl #3” in Saved by the Bell: The New Class. So we asked her all about the show’s new season, her upcoming memoir and how she learned that space exploration was achieved by more than just “a bunch of men smoking.”
“I don’t study fashion trends. I’m too busy studying my lines.”
How is Cookie different in Season 3?
I look at her like I look at myself, or any human—we’re always constantly evolving and growing and learning new things about ourselves. Just because she’s a fictional character doesn’t mean she’s not still growing. You’ve got to remember she was locked up for 17 years. She has a lot of catching up to do.
Cookie and Lucious have one of the great love-hate relationships.
I love their relationship. It’s not just black and white. This friction between these two characters challenges us to make it new and fresh each and every time, to peel back yet another layer of this complicated, complex relationship.
Do you have input into the clothes Cookie wears?
I honestly don’t bother myself with the job of a costumer. They didn’t hire me to dress Cookie. And it’s less stress for me. One outfit, I looked like I had aluminum foil on. I didn’t question it. Just bring it to me and put it on me. I’ll make it work. I don’t study fashion trends. I’m too busy studying my lines.