Actress Taraji P. Henson attends the GQ 20th Anniversary Men of the Year party at Chateau Marmont on Dec. 3, 2015, in Los Angeles.
Mike Windle/Getty Images

Empire’s ratings may have taken a dip in the second season, but that doesn’t change the impact the show has had on Taraji P. Henson’s career. USA Today has dubbed her Entertainer of the Year. 

Lest we forget, Empire debuted at the top of 2015, and it’s been a whirlwind ride ever since, Henson said in an interview with the news outlet. Last year during this time, life was “normal still,” but things have changed drastically. “I can’t really go anywhere [without being recognized],” Henson said.

The mainstream fame does has its perks, though, like free gifts.

“Upside, now that I’m rich, people like to send me things for free. I don’t understand that, but OK, I’ll take it. I love getting free gifts.”

She’s more excited that people have gravitated toward an unconventional character like Cookie, who isn’t perfect by anyone’s standards.

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“Who thought Cookie would bring me this kind of notoriety? This is the type of character that people judge—she went to jail, she sold drugs. But what happens? [People] run to her. Blows me away every time. That goes to show, people like real,” she said.

And get this: The cast and crew are very clear about why the second season didn’t work as well as the first: all of the extras who kept popping up, distracting viewers from the core storyline and the main characters.

“We don’t need outside cast,” she said. “It’s nice every now and then; that’s what made the first season work. You always learn.”

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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.

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