About Taraji P. Henson
Born Sept. 11, 1970, Henson only goal in life had been acting since she was a child growing up in Washington, DC. During her sophomore year in high school, she auditioned for the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, but was not accepted. Convinced that she did not have what it took to become an actress, she instead studied engineering and science at the University of District Columbia and North Carolina A & T, but with her father's advice, eventually returned to what she loved most: performing. Henson enrolled in the Theater Arts program at Howard University, paying her tuition and gaining valuable performing experience as a singing and dancing waitress on a dinner cruise. After earning her bachelors degree, the single mom confirmed her goals and set off with only $700 in donations from friends and family in her pocket. There were several years of starts and stops and lots of odd jobs, but Henson found an agent and, at the age of 26, landed her first part with a television guest role as a 16-year-old on an episode of "Smart Guy" (The WB, 1997-99).
Henson's first TV credit led to further guest appearances on "Sister, Sister," (The WB, 1994-99), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), "Felicity," (The WB, 1998-2002) and "Strong Medicine" (Lifetime, 2000-06), as well as a new status as professional actress. But it was filmmaker John Singleton's "Baby Boy" (2001), a drama examining the epidemic of absentee fathers in economically depressed African-American communities, that really gave Henson a chance to shine. In her role as Yvette, the strong-willed girlfriend of a perpetual adolescent (Tyrese Gibson) who lives with his mother rather than take care of his own children, Henson caught the eye of critics and was nominated for a Black Reel Award for her performance. Her impressive performance also led to a steady role on Lifetime's "The Division" (Lifetime, 2001-04), a female-oriented police drama that explored the professional and personal lives of female law enforcement officials. In 2005, Henson made another big screen splash in the urban drama "Hustle & Flow" (2005), where she was recognized with a Best Actress nomination from the Image Awards for the pivotal role of a pregnant prostitute and live-in girlfriend who provides emotional support to a pimp-turned record producer (Terrence Howard). Henson also sang the film's Oscar-winning song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," raising her profile by performing it at the 2006 Academy Awards.
Re-teaming with Singleton and Howard in the 2005 violent revenge drama "Four Brothers," Henson gave her all in a small but powerful role opposite Andre 3000. She maintained a presence on the small screen with guest parts in "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004- ) and " CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," (CBS, 2000- ) before returning to the theaters with a supporting role in the likable independent romantic comedy, "Something New" (2006), directed by and starring Sanaa Hamri. Revisiting the underworld, Henson had a supporting role as a hitwoman in Joe Carnahan's stylish but poorly received crime thriller "Smokin' Aces" (2006) before critical raves were again forthcoming for her role in the biopic "Talk to Me" (2007). In the true chronicle of Petey Greene (Don Cheadle), who transformed from ex-con to influential 1960s D.C. radio host, Henson gave another stand-out performance as Greene's assertive and supportive girlfriend, earning another Image Award nomination and enthusiastic reception from film critic Roger Ebert, who singled her out as "an unstoppable force and immovable object rolled into one."
In the fall of that year, Henson returned to series television to join the cast of ABC's multiple Emmy-nominated law dramedy, "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), playing a new addition to the Crane Poole & Schmidt law firm. Following an appearance in the ensemble cast of the successful Tyler Perry outing "The Family That Preys" (2008), Henson received some of the greatest praise of her career for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008). Loosely based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the David Fincher-directed film chronicled the reverse life of a man (Brad Pitt) born elderly who grows younger with time, with Henson co-starring as the adoptive mother who finds the discarded "newborn" on the steps of the nursing home where she works. In a film populated by A-listers, Henson made an indelible impression with her portrayal of the kindly Southerner, earning Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Screen Actor's Guild, the Image Awards and the Critic's Choice awards. But most significantly, Henson received her first nomination at the Academy Awards.
The actress advanced to starring role status in the film adaptation of T.D. Jakes' novel, "Not Easily Broken," where she and Morris Chestnut played a married couple drifting in different directions. After making a few recurring appearances on ABC's surreal drama "Eli Stone" (ABC, 2008) Henson revisited New Orleans, the setting of "Benjamin Button," to shoot "Hurricane Season" (2009), where she starred alongside Forest Whitaker and Isaiah Washington in a drama about a high school basketball team comprised of Hurricane Katrina survivors. Later that year, she landed a supporting role in the crime drama "Once Fallen" starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. After starring as an alcoholic singer in Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" (2009), Henson landed a range of supporting roles in "Date Night" (2010), "The Karate Kid" (2010) and "Larry Crowne" (2011). Back on the small screen, she delivered an acclaimed turn as a young mother who seeks outside help to regain her son after he is kidnapped and taken by the father to South Korea in the real-life drama, "Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story" (Lifetime, 2011). The titular role earned the actress an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.
|Oxon Hill High School, Oxon Hill , Maryland|
|North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro , North Carolina|
|Howard University, Washington , Washington D.C.|
|Cast in the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man"|
|Played a former Iraqi soldier turned NYPD homicide detective on the CBS mystery drama "Person of Interest"|
|Cast in a supporting role opposite Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in "Larry Crowne"|
|Nominated for the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie|
|Co-starred with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith in "The Karate Kid"|
|Co-starred with Steve Carell and Tina Fey in the comedy "Date Night"|
|Starred in "Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself," written and directed by her film co-star Perry|
|Cast in the role of Queenie, Benjamin's (Brad Pitt) mother in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"|
|Joined an ensemble cast for Tyler Perry's "The Family That Preys"|
|Cast as Petey Greene's (played by Don Cheadle) assertive girlfriend Vernell in "Talk to Me," about the 1960s influential ex-con turned DJ|
|Joined the cast of ABC's "Boston Legal" for one season|
|Joined the cast of the ensemble crime thriller "Smokin' Aces"|
|With Three 6 Mafia, performed the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" at the 78th Academy Awards ceremony|
|Played Shug, the pregnant prostitute and live-in girlfriend of Terrence Howard in Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow"; also made her singing debut, providing the vocals for the Three 6 Mafia track "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"|
|Joined the cast of the Lifetime series "The Division" as Inspector Raina Washington|
|Earned positive reviews for her role as the strong-willed girlfriend of Tyrese Gibson's character in John Singleton's "Baby Boy"|
|Had a small role as a student in the comedy "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle"|
|Made film debut in "Streetwise"|
|Made her debut TV appearance on an episode of The WB sitcom "Smart Guy"|
|Moved to Los Angeles, CA after graduating from Howard University|
|Worked as a secretary and a singing and dancing waitress to pay for college|
|Auditioned for the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, but was not accepted|