Taraji P. Henson: I Didn’t Want to Make Cookie a Neck-Rolling Caricature

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
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Taraji P. Henson
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Taraji P. Henson put a lot of thought into playing Cookie Lyon on Empire because she didn't want the character to be stereotyped as just another African-American working-class woman whom people could disregard or prejudge. 

During an interview with People magazine, Henson explained how there's a lot more to Cookie's larger-than-life personality, and she took the time to parse that and bring it to the screen. 

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"She's such a powerhouse, so I was very delicate with her," Henson said. "She can be really bigger than life, so I took very good care into making her someone that people could identify with—a real person, not just a caricature who could be sassy and roll her neck."

She also spoke about how thrilled she is to have the opportunity to act on television, since she didn't see a lot of actresses who looked like her when she was a child; nor did she see fully developed characters like Cookie portrayed authentically. 

"Growing up, it was rare for me to see a woman that looked like me that inspired me," Henson said. "So it was very important for me to portray Cookie. I didn't want to [screw] it up." 

Henson does give a depth to Cookie that allows viewers to get a sense of her vulnerabilities and what fuels her: family. 

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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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