Why Taraji P. Henson Nearly Turned Down the Role of Cookie in 'Empire'

Actress says something about the show's storyline made her nervous.

ByLuchina Fisher
January 22, 2015, 12:34 PM
PHOTO: "Cookie," played by Taraji P. Henson, visits an old friend in the "The Devil Quotes Scripture" episode of the show "Empire."
"Cookie," played by Taraji P. Henson, visits an old friend in the "The Devil Quotes Scripture" episode of the show "Empire."
Chuck Hodes/FOX

— -- Taraji P. Henson's role as Cookie on the new drama "Empire" is one of the juiciest on television, but she nearly turned it down.

Henson told E! News that Lee Daniels' show is tackling homophobia head on.

"That's what scared me and made me nervous," Henson said. "I didn't know whether I should or I shouldn't [do the show]. Like, 'Is this going to do bad for my career?' That's the first thing you do, you panic. Because I read the script and I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is brilliant but it's scary because you're forcing people to think.'"

But then Henson realized her fear wasn't such a bad thing.

"The fear is here for a reason," she said. "And if I'm feeling like this, other people are feeling like this, and if we don't talk about it, then we're gonna be a world full of scared people."

Now that she's made the decision, Henson couldn't be happier.

"As an artist, I don't like to do safe work," she said. "I like to do work that is going to push people to think. That's what art is supposed to do. If art really imitates life, it isn't going to be so pretty. People are going to disagree. There's going to be hate, there's going to be love, there's going to be conflict. And that's what I love about this show. Because it's not safe at all."

The show, which centers around hip-hop music mogul Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, has been well received by audiences and critics alike and already has been picked up for a second season by Fox.

On the latest episode, Lyon's gay son, Jamal, played by Jussie Smollet, finally stood up to his homophobic and abusive father, moving out of his apartment and cutting financial ties.

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