Saturday, October 1, 2022

Taraji P. Henson Says Empire ‘Crosses All Color Lines’

taraji p henson fox kiss
Actress Taraji P. Henson attends Fox All-Star Party at Langham Hotel on January 17, 2015 in Pasadena, California

*The audience for “Empire” continues to build each week, and it’s not just black people who are watching.

Based on its social media presence alone, the audience for Fox’s breakout hit seems to be as diverse as America itself, which pleases star Taraji P. Henson to no end.

“When you get a cast that is predominantly black, then there comes this label, ‘Well, that’s a black this or a black that,’ and the danger in saying that is that you make others that aren’t black feel, ‘Oh, well, that’s just for black people.’ I don’t label things when I go to the movie,” says Henson. “I don’t go say, ‘Oh, you know, this week I want to see a white movie. I want to see that good Chinese movie.’ I go because I see the preview and it moves me to want to spend my money. I don’t care what it is. If somebody’s in love or they’re in pain, or they lost a loved one, I understand that. That has no color.”

EMPIRE: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson, L) takes over Anika's (Grace Gealey, R) meeting in the "False Imposition" episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Jan. 28 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
EMPIRE: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson, L) takes over Anika’s (Grace Gealey, R) meeting in the “False Imposition” episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Jan. 28 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Henson says the show’s drama “crosses all color lines…as humans, going through things that humans go through.” Her character, Cookie Lyons, has even been embraced by the likes of veteran comedic actor Denis Leary, who said at the recent TCA Press Tour: “Listen, I saw ‘Empire,’ and I gotta tell you, I thought that Cookie was f**king unbelievable. …That character is un-f**king-believable.”

Much of Cookie’s sass comes from Taraji often rewriting her scripted lines to make the character more authentic. For example, Cookie’s infamous “goat ass” quip when referring to the smell of girls’ scalps under their hair weaves…that was all Taraji.

Below, the Washington DC-born and bred actress explains how she came up with the “goat ass” line, and executive producer Danny Strong explains how writer/director Lee Daniels ended up including the line in the script. Also, co-star Terrence Howard chimes in…

“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Watch a “First Look” of this week’s episode, “False Imposition,” below:



  1. It doesn’t matter what she says. The point is that as long as the two main protagonists are black, black people are going to be the ones watching it. I don’t know why artists make comments like Henson is making. I get what she is saying but that’s not the reality in the scheme of things. No matter what she says, the ‘diverse’ audience that the she and the network is seeking, wouldn’t be there. Also, why is it that shows that have two main black protagonists have diverse casting but if they are white, the casting looks a lot different?

  2. NYCsoul, I totally disagree with your statement. The reason the show has a cross over appeal is because of the hip hop culture that has consumed the country. Since its inception, almost thirty years ago, there is a universal language that has permeated this country. Commercials are a great example. Many commercials use hip hop slang, as well as many sitcoms even if their all white. In doing so, the show has a language that everybody can identify with. The music is also a factor. Most people fifty and under were apart of the beginning of the hip hop culture. It’s everywhere. Most movies use hip hop themed music. Regardless of the racial unrest that seems to be gripping the country, the country is moving forward, and this show is a prime example. I love it!!!

  3. We’ll have to agree to disagree. I am definitely under 50 and I think pop culture has become too saturated with hip-hop themes and culture. But that’s my opinion. The real test is if the show will last for a long period of time. People have short attention spans nowadays and once a show starts losing steam, ratings will start dropping. And again, the show is only on its second or third episode, so there really is no way to gauge whether it appeals to all ethnic groups. Time will tell.

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