It’s been three weeks since Empire aired its season finale, and we’re still feeling the void. However, the show’s stars have barely had a moment to breathe. And our favorite boss chick, Taraji P. Henson, is living proof of that.
The claws may come out (and the earrings may come off) when she steps into the shoes of Cookie Lyon, but off-screen, Henson couldn’t be more different. She recently spoke with ESSENCE.com about everything from her dating life to what her TV sons are really like off-screen.
Empire is a huge success, did you guys know it was going to be this successful?
I thought that if it was handled properly it could get to this level of this success, and thank God Fox was the network that was ready to take a risk. They knew how to market it. I knew what we were doing on-set. I knew we were coming up with incredible material that would get you guys hooked. I couldn’t tweet about it, but I knew, and I was like ‘God if they just do this right, it can shift the whole game on television.’
We’ve always known you were the bomb, but now the mainstream folks are catching on. What are you doing while Empire is on hiatus?
I’m doing a lot of work. I’m doing Saturday Night Live, then I’m going to Europe to promote Empire, so I haven’t really sat down. I tried to do a vacation in Mexico for four days, and left straight from there to go to work. So I haven’t really felt like I’ve had a vacation.
What’s your off-screen relationship like with your TV sons?
I think I’m closest to Jussie [Smollett], naturally. But I love all three the same, like a real mother. They’re all very different, uniquely different, and that’s what’s so beautiful about them.
Any fun moments between you guys you can share?
Jussie comes over and always rummages through my cabinets, eating everything in my pantry. Yaz [Bryshere “Yaz” Gray] is always asking me to cook for him. Trai [Byers] is always offering to cook.
That brotha looks good…
He’s the handsome one, right? It’s almost embarrassing to look at him sometimes.
So you’re very much about being a mom, and you posted on Instagram that you’re single by choice.
I mean I date, but y’all don’t know.
How do men approach you? Are they intimidated?
I get that a lot, but I’m sick of hearing it. What am I doing? Do I go [growls] when a man approaches me? What does that mean, “intimidating”? I’m confident in who I am. I don’t emasculate men. I love to be feminine and fall back and let a man be a man, so I don’t know where that’s coming from, maybe their own insecurities. But I feel like he’s out there and I won’t intimidate him because I don’t intimidate. I think a lot of time they’re projecting. You see how silly I am. I’m not a mean woman.