Taraji P. Henson arrives at the premiere of “Larry Crowne” in Los Angeles, Monday, June 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
There is something about Taraji P. Henson.
Not only has she quickly become one of Hollywood’s little darlings, she is one its most sought after actresses. So much so that she now gets requests from A-listers to star in their movies.
That was the case surrounding Henson’s latest film, “Larry Crowne,” starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer, Pam Grier, Wilmer Valderrama, George Takei and Bryan Cranston. The movie, co-written [Nia Vardalos], produced and directed by Hanks, is currently in theaters nationwide.
“Larry Crowne” is a comedy about a man, played by Hanks, who is fired from his job and enrolls at a community college. Roberts and Star Trek’s Takei star as two of his teachers.
“I’m not in it much, but I don’t care,” said Henson. “Tom Hanks called me personally and you don’t say no to Tom Hanks.”
Henson stars opposite Cedric the Entertainer as a married couple who make their living running a garage sale on their front lawn – everyday!
“Most of my scenes ended up on the cutting room floor,” said Henson, who, at one time, was known for conducting her own personal garage sales. “Tom, you owe me.”
Henson, who graduated from Howard University with a degree in theater arts, has shared the screen with some of Hollywood’s finest, including Don Cheadle (Talk to Me), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces), Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin (Four Brothers), Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard, Cole Hauser, Rockmond Dunbar (Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys), John Larroquette (Boston Legal) and more.
She played the role of Brad Pitt’s character’s adoptive mother in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. And for her work, she received a best-supporting-actress Academy Award nomination. Thus far in her career, Henson considers it her greatest achievement.
“Getting the Oscars,” said Henson. “That’s what every actor gets into the business for.”
That wasn’t the first time Henson, 39, made an appearance at the Oscars(r). At the 2005 ceremony, she sang ‘It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp’ from the film “Hustle & Flow.”
Over the years, Henson, who is from Washington, D.C., has methodically built a solid list of credits starting with a stint on television (“The Division” and “Boston Legal”) before getting her big break as the female lead in John Singleton’s 2001 film “Baby Boy”.
Since that time her film career has blossomed. Last summer she starred in “The Karate Kid,” playing Jaden Smith’s mom. She also appeared in “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell and in “Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself.” Other credits include: “Something New” and “Hair Show.”
Up next is the dark drama, “The Good Doctor,” opposite Orlando Bloom. She is also set for the lead role in the upcoming film, “Think Like a Man,” based on Steve Harvey’s popular book, Act Like a Lady Think Like A Man.
“That’s the role I chose because she’s the pretty girl,” said Henson, who has a son [Marcel] about to graduate high school. “They wanted me to be the one to date the Baby Boy. I want the pretty girl, the powerhouse. I said, ‘If I can’t do that, I won’t do it.’ They said, ‘Ok, you got it.'”
Other projects include: “From the Rough,” based on a true story. Henson plays a college coach trying to build up the men’s golf team.
Also, this fall, the petite actress will return to television where she will play Detective Carter, a woman trying to discover the mysterious identity of a presumed dead former-CIA agent named Reese in the CBS drama, “Person of Interest,” which stars Jim Caviezel as the former agent. The show, written by Jonah Nolan, centers on Reese (Caviezel) who teams up with a software genius (Michael Emerson) to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. The two work together, outside of the law, to uncover who each potential criminal is and stop the crime before it happens. Once again, Henson was sought after. Reportedly, Nolan called Henson and said he wanted to work with her.
Although it may look like Henson has a lot on her plate, she said she is selective when it comes to the projects she accepts.
“If I’m not passionate about it, I won’t do it,” she said. “I don’t take jobs just to take jobs.”
Although she’s a solid actress with an impressive list of credits, Henson said she still faces challenges.
“There’s always a challenge,” said Henson. “You’re always proving yourself. I’m a better comic actress instead of a dramatic actress. People see your work and don’t see beneath it. I don’t get called for glamorous roles. I love challenges, so it’s all good.”
Henson takes her profession seriously. She offers advice to young people hoping to make it in the business.
“People, please study the craft,” said Henson. “It’s a craft and it has to be studied. If you want to get where I am you have to study your craft.”
As hard as she works, Henson does try to make time for a personal life. But, right now the single actresses’ focus is on her son, Marcel.
“I’m very protective of my son,” she said. “I have to be careful and protect him. The only way he will learn to respect women is to respect his mother. So I can’t have men as a revolving door in my life. I want real love. If that means being single the rest of my life….”
“Larry Crowne” (Universal Pictures) is Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content. Running time: 99 minutes.