Taraji P. Henson On Hidden Figures Character: ‘I’m A Trained Actress, I Can Give You What You Want, Baby’
Warwick Saint

In Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson brings Katherine Johnson’s story to the big screen, not only paying homage to the NASA mathematician, but also landing the opportunity to show that she is an actress with range. 

The film, which tells the story of Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, stars Henson and primarily revolves around Johnson — a math prodigy and mother of three who, after computing at NASA, was assigned to the Space Task Group where she performed calculations for historic space missions. It’s a chance for Henson to step away from her beloved Empire character Cookie Lyon while telling the unsung stories of extraordinary Black women in history.

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“I’m a trained actress. I can give you anything you want, baby. Just because I talk like I’m that girl from the ‘hood does not mean I cannot give you Shakespeare in the Park or Chekhov. I studied the craft,” she tells ESSENCE.

And Henson isn’t kidding. To prepare for her role as Johnson, the actress installed a chalkboard in her home to practice the complicated calculations her character computed with ease.

Hidden Figures will be in theaters nationwide Jan. 6 and you can read the full interview with the film’s leading ladies in ESSENCE’s February issue.


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