Taraji P. Henson is speaking out about the salary she received for her role in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which she calls “the equivalent of sofa change” compared to co-stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
In her memoir, Around The Way Girl, the Empire actress says she received “the lowest of six figures” as opposed to Pitt and Blanchett’s likely million dollar salary – despite receiving third billing. Henson also writes that she had to foot the bill for her own hotel room, a three-month stay. Henson says she did not ask for more money for fear of losing the role, which eventually led to an Oscar nomination.
Unfortunately, Henson says interest in her vanished quickly and she lost a number of juicy roles to white actresses. “Time and again, I’ve lost roles because someone with the ability to green-light a film couldn’t see black women beyond a very limited purview he or she thought ‘fit’ audience expectations,” she writes.
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She named the 2014 film St. Vincent as one example, saying the role of the pregnant stripper was originally written for her by the film’s screenwriter and director, Theodore Melfi, but eventually went to Naomi Watts: “It was a meaty gig. I would have loved it. Alas, I couldn’t get served at that particular restaurant.”
It’s unfortunate that filmmakers were unable to look past Henson’s skin color, but the talented actress is getting the last laugh. Empire is ratings gold and Henson has racked up numerous nominations and wins for her role as Cookie Lyon. She will also star in the upcoming highly anticipated film Hidden Figures, a movie many believe has tons of Oscar potential.
Around The Way Girl is available in bookstores now.