Hustle & Flow
African-American actress Taraji Henson, sometimes credited as Taraji P. Henson, was first noticed when she received a Black Reel nomination for Theatrical - Best Actress and the Special Mention award at the Locarno International Film Festival for her performance as Snoop Dogg's ex-girlfriend and Tyrese Gibson's love interest Yvette in John Singleton's "Baby Boy" (2001). She would score her big break in 2005 when she garnered rave reviews for her role as a pregnant prostitute in Craig Brewer's Academy Award-nominated musical drama, "Hustle & Flow."
Henson has added to her resume significant roles in such films as "Four Brothers" (2005), "Smokin' Aces" (2006) and "Talk to Me" (2007). She will next be seen in the upcoming films "Not Easily Broken," "Hurricane Season," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "The Family That Preys."
On the small screen, TV viewers could catch her as Inspector Raina Washington (2003-2004) on Lifetime’s drama "The Division." She also recently played Whitney Rome during the fourth season (2007-2008) of ABC's Emmy-winning drama "Boston Legal." She also guest starred in such popular TV shows as "Sister, Sister," "ER," "Felicity," "Strong Medicine," "Half & Half," "House M.D.," and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
The actress, who was voted one of The 10 Sexiest Women of 2001 by the readers of Black Men Magazine, now lives in California with her son Marcel.
Childhood and Family:
A relative, not a descendant, of North Pole explorer Matthew Henson, Taraji Penda Henson (first and middle names are Swahili for 'hope' and 'love,' respectively) was born in Washington, District of Columbia, on September 11, 1970. After graduating from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, she attended a summer science program at the University of District Columbia.
Henson studied Electrical Engineering at North Carolina Agric & Tech, but transferred to acting at Howard University after failing Pre-Calculus. I order to pay for Howard, she worked two jobs. She graduated with a degree in theater arts from Howard University in 1995.
Henson lives in Glendale, California, with her son Marcel, who was born in 1995. The father of her only son died unexpectedly in 1997.
"Believe it or not, I lead a very simple life. I like to hang around the house. I love my house. I sit out by the pool. I have an amazing canyon view in the back and in the living room I have an amazing view of downtime Glendale. I love to cook. I spend a lot of time with my son, but he's away for the summer spending the summer with his grandfather. So when he goes away, I don't know what to do with myself. I don't like to hang out in clubs or that sort of thing. I did that when I had a fake I.D. I just pretty much hang out at the house, will call friends over, have them bring some drinks over, throw some food on the grill, hang out by the pool; very simple. I'm such a homebody. I'm probably the only idiot that dances and jumps up and down when we get our first cold day in the winter because I'm ready to throw a log on the fire and call it a Blockbuster night!" Taraji Henson
Taraji Henson studied acting at Howard University and moved to Hollywood after graduation. After struggling to get an agent, the then 26-year-old landed her first role, as a 16-year-old girl named Monique, on an October 1997 episode of the WB sitcom “Smart Guy.”
She continued to receive guest spots on such TV shows as the WB sitcom starring Tia and Tamera Mowry, "Sister, Sister," the hit NBC medical drama "ER," the WB Golden Globe-winning primetime drama starring Keri Russell, "Felicity," and USA Network's police drama "Pacific Blue." She also made her film debut with "Streetwise" (1998), an action movie written and directed by Bruce Brown.
Hitting the new millennium, Henson was cast in Des McAnuff's "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," which featuring Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Piper Perabo, Randy Quaid, and Robert De Niro. She also co-starred with Shannen Doherty and Julie Benz in the made-for-television movie "Satan's School for Girls" and guest starred in an episode of Lifetime’s medical drama starring Rosa Blasi, "Strong Medicine."
The following year, Taraji supported Tyrone Gibson in the Adisa Jones-directed musical drama film "All or Nothing" and co-starred as Snoop Dogg's ex-girlfriend and Tyrese Gibson's love interest Yvette in John Singleton's drama film "Baby Boy" (both in 2001). Her performance in the latter film earned her a Black Reel nomination for Theatrical - Best Actress and awarded her a Special Mention at the Locarno International Film Festival.
Meanwhile, she also appeared in the third TV-Movie in the highly successful "Murder, She Wrote," "Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man," starring Angela Lansbury.
From 2003 to 2004, Henson co-starred as Inspector Raina Washington on Lifetime’s original series "The Division," alongside Bonnie Bedelia, Nancy McKeon, and Lisa Vidal.
In 2004, she co-starred with Mo'Nique, Kellita Smith, and Gina Torres in Leslie Small's romantic comedy film "Hair Show" and was spotted as a guest in an episode of the now-defunct UPN sitcom "All of Us."
Post "The Division," Henson scored her big break when she was cast as Shug, the pregnant prostitute who develops a romantic connection with a petty drug dealer and a pimp (played by Terrence Howard), in writer/director Craig Brewer's Academy Award-nominated musical drama, "Hustle & Flow" (2005). Her work in the film won a Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
That same year, Henson was reunited with Terrence Howard for the straight-to-video released prison movie starring Ving Rhames, "Animal." She also teamed up again with Tyrese Gibson and film director John Singleton for the action film "Four Brothers," which was loosely based on the 1965 western film "The Sons of Katie Elder." In the film that also stars Andre Benjamin, Mark Wahlberg, and Garrett Hedlund, Henson played Benjamin's wife Camille. Henson was also seen in an episode of UPN’s sitcom "Half & Half" and FOX's Emmy and Peabody Award-winning medical drama "House M.D."
In 2006, Henson appeared in two films, "Something New," a romantic comedy directed by Sanaa Hamri starring Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker, and "Smokin' Aces," an action movie helmed by Joe Carnahan and starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Piven. She was also spotted as a guest in an episode of CBS’ crime drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
Henson recently played the female lead in Kasi Lemmons' true story-based film about the 1960s ex-con, popular talk show host, and community activist Ralph "Petey" Greene (portrayed by Don Cheadle), "Talk to Me," which premiered as the opening night film of the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival. It won her a Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast and earned her nominations at the Image and Satellite Awards.
Henson next played Whitney Rome during the fourth season (2007-2008) of ABC's Golden Globe, Peabody and Emmy Award-winning drama "Boston Legal," a spin-off of the long-running legal drama "The Practice." Alongside the show's cast members that included James Spader, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner, Henson received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. In June 2008, it was reported that she would not return for the show's fifth season.
Henson has completed her new film, "Not Easily Broken," a drama directed by Bill Duke adapted from T.D. Jakes' novel starring Maeve Quinlan and Cannon Jay. She also has wrapped up Tim Story's basketball drama "Hurricane Season," with Forest Whitaker, Bow Wow, Isaiah Washington, and Lil' Wayne, and David Fincher's loose adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
Currently, Henson is working on Tyler Perry's upcoming movie, "The Family That Preys.”
"Outside of the industry, my inspiration comes from my son. He's my rock. I don't know where I would be without him. He just keeps me so focused and he's such a beautiful, good little child. I couldn't have asked for a better child. He's a good little boy. I also have a great network of friends and they don't even live here. They're friends that I've had since I was in the 7th grade; my best friends. I have two friends that I met when I was in college and we're still very close. All in all, I have five core girlfriends that stick really close to me. Everybody's always asking me how I stay so grounded and I tell them it's because I've had the same friends since I was a kid." Taraji Henson
Gotham: Best Ensemble Cast, "Talk to Me," 2007
BET: Best Actress, 2006
Black Movie: Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, "Hustle & Flow," 2005
Locarno International Film Festival: Special Mention, "Baby Boy," 2001