Taraji P. Henson’s ‘Cookie Lyon’ is the best thing about FOX’s ‘Empire’, and with the show entering it’s fourth season, Taraji is keeping it real about having to let ‘Cookie’ go in the future.
Via Page Six:
“I could not do this forever. No. Cookie wears me out!” Henson exclaims during a recent interview with Variety. “She drains me,” the actress adds with a laugh. “She is emotionally all over the place. Those writers, they just keep pushing my emotions with every episode. By the 18th episode [of each season], I’m dead. I got to get far away. I don’t wear animal print. I cut my hair into a bob. I don’t wear a weave because I’ve got to get as far away from Cookie as possible.”
When asked if she has a number of seasons in mind she’d like “Empire” to stay on the air, Henson quips, “Once it’s syndicated — and then I’m like, ‘Thank you. Goodnight!’”
“I learned this from the women of ‘Sex and the City’ — you’ve got to know when to go out. You don’t want to overstay your welcome. You want to go out on a high. You want to be remembered as the number one show on network,” Henson adds. “I’m going to lose my passion, I know me. And Cookie is enough. I can’t do that for so long.”
While playing Cookie is an emotionally taxing role, Henson wasn’t always confident that her erratic character would resonate with audiences. When she first read the script for “Empire,” she says, she was “scared to death.”
“I thought people would hate her,” Henson admits. “Because of the things that she says, it was very risky, because that’s a character that if it’s not handled correctly, it would turn the audience off.”
Henson could have never imagined the success “Empire” would become — many would say, in large part thanks to her Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance as Cookie — but she originally signed onto the Fox pilot because the character frightened her.
“Any role that scares me is a challenge and I don’t back away from challenges. That’s how I pick roles — if it scares me, I have to do it,” she explains. “Cookie scared me a bit and the challenge was, how do I make the audience connect and feel and empathize for her? Once I did that work, I was like, OK, people are either going to love her or hate her. Thank God it worked. Phew!”
Henson also admits that the importance placed on overnight ratings is part of the reason why she actually prefers working in film than TV. We all know that recently she starred in the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.”
“I’m in a unique position on my television show, ‘Empire,’ because I think sometimes television is kind of corporate, and I’m an artist and my brain doesn’t work like that. What I mean by corporate is that it’s like a government job almost — you’re still acting, but it’s a different set-up,” Henson explains, continuing, “Film, I like better. You have a day to shoot one scene and you get to let it breathe, and you have one writer for your character so your character doesn’t feel schizophrenic — sometimes, my characters feel schizo on television because there are so many opinions and so much input … that’s why I like film a little better. One writer, one director, one [studio] head. Not all those voices.”
Although the role of ‘Cookie has been a successful role. I’m sure we all can relate to becoming drained with constantly seeing the typical black woman stereotype in film & on TV.
We know all too well the angry black girl narrative. You know, the one you see on TV: the lady whose always yelling, hand gestures everywhere, neck rolling – the bubble-gum-popping black girl who always has plenty to say, usually something nagging, loud and confrontational. You’ll see her on “reality” TV shows such as Love & Hip Hop and Bad Girls Club, or go back to the 1930s and she was Sapphire on the radio (and later TV) show Amos ‘n’ Andy.
The stereotype has parallels in the “strong black woman” and the “strong independent woman” (of any race): all limit our ability as women to emote, as if the only emotion we can express is anger and our only quality is strength.
These images of black femininity are constantly force-fed to us through the media, and it’s time we started questioning why. The fact that we are consistently portrayed this way says a lot about society’s treatment of black people – the lack of respect and even kindness towards black women.
It’s mentally exhausting to keep seeing these roles in the highlights when it comes to gaining good ratings.