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Taraji P. Henson Shares Why She Fired Her Team After ‘Empire’ Success



Taraji P. Henson said the best business decision she’s ever made was “firing everybody” after her six-season run as Cookie Lyon on Empire.

“Everybody had to f–king go,” Henson, 53, explained in a recent interview for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. “[I was like], ‘Where is my deal? Where’s my commercial?’ Cookie was at the top of the fashion game. ‘Where is my endorsement? What did you have set up for after this?’ That’s why you all haven’t seen me in so long. They had nothing set up.”

Henson starred as Empire Entertainment cofounder Cookie on the hit Fox series, which ran from 2015 to 2020. Her character quickly became a fan favorite for her killer sense of style and powerful personality.

According to Henson, all her team wanted was “another Cookie show” following the series’ end. “I said, ‘I’ll do it, but it has to be right. The people deserve — she’s too beloved for y’all to f–k it up,’” Henson shared. “And so, when they didn’t get it right, I was like, ‘Well, that’s it,’ and then they had nothing else. [I said], ‘You’re all f–king fired.’”

Henson followed up her role as Cookie by appearing as The Bride in Muppets Haunted Mansion, which premiered over a year after Empire’s April 2020 series finale.

She went on to note that it took her “years” to decide to fire her team because she had “a bit of Stockholm syndrome.” Henson continued: “You are the prize, don’t you ever forget that. You are the talent, you are their check. Don’t ever forget that. They work for you, and if they’re not, somebody else will do it.”

Henson has since gone on to star in projects including Annie Live!, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Abbott Elementary, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie and most recently, The Color Purple. During her SAG-AFTRA Foundation discussion, Henson revealed that she “almost had to walk away” from her role as Shug Avery in the new film because of a pay disparity.

“I’m getting to a point where I just want to be 10 toes down on an island somewhere because [of] the fight as a Black woman,” she explained. “We do it with so much grace and get paid half the price of what we’re worth, and that becomes difficult. And it’s a slap in my face when people go, ‘Oh, you work all the time!’ Well, bitch, I have to, ’cause the math ain’t mathing.”

Related: ‘The Color Purple’: Everything to Know About the New Movie Musical

From Broadway to the big screen! The Color Purple musical is the next Broadway show to earn a film adaptation. The musical production takes inspiration from the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the 1985 feature film of the same name. The award-winning drama, which made its Broadway debut in 2005, earned eleven […]

Henson went on to say that she had to work “so much” in order to support her family and her team. “Big bills come with this s–t we do,” she shared. “I don’t do this alone, it takes a team and they want to get paid for their work, as they should.”

She shared similar comments during a SiriusXM interview with Gayle King earlier this month, stating, “I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost. I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over.”

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