BEVERLY HILLS — We learned a few things listening to Empire‘s Taraji P. Henson and Star’s Queen Latifah during back-to-back Television Critics Association panels Tuesday for the Lee Daniels-produced Fox dramas.
Offscreen, she’s Taraji.
Henson acknowledged some fans can’t separate her from Cookie Lyons, her Empire character, when they meet her in person.
“That’s all I get is Cookie. I say, ‘Not now. It’s Taraji,” she said.
Henson figured her short, stylish haircut might help distance her from the character, but it hasn’t.
Fans say, ” ‘Cookie, I like your new cut, girl.’ Cookie doesn’t even wear this hair!”
Queen Latifah doesn’t demand to be addressed as royalty.
A TV writer began a question to Queen Latifah, hesitantly calling her “Miss Latifah.”
The actress handled the question with grace: “You can call me La,” as her friends do.
The Cookie-Lucious chemistry is grounded in Henson’s real-life friendship with Terrence Howard.
“Obviously, these two (characters) have a friendship first,” Henson said. “When I got this script, I knew it had to be someone I trusted as an artist. So, that’s Terrence. In life, we’re friends. When people see us, they call us Cookie and Lucious, but that’s us in life. This is my guy here. … The complicated places these characters have tot go, I couldn’t see myself doing it without him.”
‘Empire’s’ Cookie and ‘Star’s’ Carlotta have plenty in common.
“The strength they have is equal. They’re both strong, powerful women (who) have overcome a lot,” Latifah said. “The main difference is Cookie has success. Carlotta really doesn’t. … She’s dipped her toe into that world Cookie lives in, and she’s familiar with it. There are some things she likes about it and some things she hates. She doesn’t really want those girls to be in it, but they’re going to be in it. Who better to protect them than her?”
Could our next film comedy team be Taraji and Jussie?
A writer, noting how funny Henson and Empire co-star Jussie Smollett are on social media, asked if they had “an itch to do a comedy film.”
Henson liked the concept. “Yes, yes. Say it again,” she said, nudging the writer to repeat himself. She added: “Oh, yes, honey. We just talked about it. Thank you for putting it out there.”
Smollett said he saw Henson as the love child of Bette Davis…