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Taraji P. Henson: Cookie is everyone's spirit animal

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Taraji P. Henson understands why 2015 was the year we fell in love with Cookie Lyon.

“I get that she’s everybody’s spirit animal. She’s like a hero,” Henson told EW on the red carpet at the VH1 Big in 2015 with Entertainment Weekly awards ceremony on Sunday night. “She says the things people are afraid to say, she does the things people maybe don’t have the balls to do. But it seems like it’s coming from a real, true place. She’s not a mean person. Whenever she acts out, it’s because she’s taking up for herself, and rightfully so. And people see that.”

Henson plays Cookie on Empire, and the Fox show became one of the year’s biggest and most talked-about hits after its debut in January. But despite the plaudits, awards recognition, and magazine covers, Henson knows how to stay grounded.

“Never believe the hype. That was the best advice I ever got,” she said. “Don’t believe the hype and stay in your lane.”

RELATED: See All the Red-Carpet Style From VH1 Big In 2015 With Entertainment Weekly

Watch above to see Henson discuss what she’s learned from playing Cookie and her favorite 2015 moment. VH1 Big In 2015 With Entertainment Weekly airs on Dec. 7 at 9/8c on VH1.