“Having a moment” doesn’t even come close to describing what’s happening with Taraji P. Henson. After years of excellent work in film and television, the Academy Award-nominated actress has soared to megastar status as Cookie Lyon, the fiery heart and passionate soul of Fox’s zeitgeist sensation Empire.

Henson rose to prominence in attention-grabbing roles—singing the Oscar-winning hook of Hustle & Flow‘s “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” joining the ensemble of the Think Like a Man films, hitting Idris Elba in the face with a fire extinguisher in No Good Deed. With Empire, she’s been given a career-defining showcase role—and she earns all the accolades, one well-dressed tirade at a time.

Henson sat down to talk about the craft of acting and character creation as part of EW Lightbulb, a series of conversations with today’s leading creators about their inspirations and their methods.

And check out the other Lightbulb videos: