Monday, May 27, 2024

Taraji Henson

From ‘Karate Kid’ to big success

Taraji Henson

From the time she first lit up the big screen in John Singleton’s 2001 drama “Baby Boy,” Taraji Henson has been recognized as one of Hollywood’s most talented up-and-coming actresses. Nearly a decade later, audiences still respond to the role of the fiery girlfriend, Yvette; during last year’s BET Awards, Henson received some of the night’s loudest cheers when co-star Tyrese Gibson joined her to re-enact one of their intense lovers’ quarrels.

Still, the 39-year-old Henson says it wasn’t until four years later, when she starred in “Hustle and Flow” opposite Terrence Howard, that she realized superstardom might be her destiny. “That was a turning point for me, personally, because I was nominated for an Academy Award for the song ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’ which I sang in the movie,” she said in an interview with Black Image. “Everyone seemed to know my name after that, so I checked that off my list of goals.”

Having shared the screen in recent years with mega-star Brad Pitt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and film impresario Tyler Perry (“I Can Do Bad All By Myself”), Henson is enjoying her well-earned status as one of the busiest stars in the business.

In theaters now, she appears alongside Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in the remake of “The Karate Kid.” She portrays Sherry, a hardworking single mother whose son, Dre, takes up martial arts when they are forced to relocate to Beijing from Detroit. “It was wonderful working on the movie,” she said. “Jaden is truly a superstar and he fills your heart. Jackie Chan shows you a vulnerable side. You are going to cry, laugh and cheer. ‘The Karate Kid’ is a feel-good movie for the entire family — even Grandma will love it.”

Considered among the most down-to-earth celebrities in Hollywood, Henson is determined to remain grounded. “I love it when people approach me to say hello — it tells me that I am approachable,” she said. “I think people should make a list of (the reasons) they love a particular person they haven’t met personally. So when you finally meet that person, you should be able to say, ‘Oh, now I know why I love you!’ I recently worked with Tom Hanks on a movie with Cedric the Entertainer. I had never met (Hanks) before, but he has to be the nicest person on earth.”

As the single mother of one child, Henson believes in making an extra effort to strike the appropriate balance between the demands of family and career. “I am a mom first,” she insisted. “I make sure that my home front is straight before anything else. It always seems to work out, and my mother is a great help and supportive. When I am traveling, she is here to take up the slack. My son is now a teenager and my career gradually grew as he did. When I first started acting, my career was not that demanding, and I could be home with my son when he was small. As I got busier, he got older.”

While many actors find it difficult to consistently find work, Henson believes that attitude is everything in the rough-and-tumble world of show business.

“My mother told me when I was young, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ And that speaks volumes,” she said. “It means whatever you put out there in the universe will come back to you. So if I want a happy environment, that is what I put out and try to surround myself with good people. I don’t go collecting new friends. I work very hard to have the right people around me. You have to be careful about those things.”

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