A peek in the life of the Emmy-nominated actress and and behind-the-scenes of the Fox hit's dramatic third season
There are several ways an actress can tell she’s finally made it in Hollywood. Shiny trophies. Swarming paparazzi. Big paydays. Top billing. And, of course, animals wearing clothes just like hers. In that regard, ladies and gentlemen, Taraji P. Henson has arrived. “I’ve gotten people dressing their dogs up like Cookie, cats up like Cookie,” says the Empire star.
But it’s not just the canine and feline demos that have taken to her Lyon family matriarch. Sixteen million fans — including the Obamas! — tune in to the Fox drama each week to see Henson’s outrageous and courageous performance, making Cookie one of the most iconic TV characters of the past decade and a pop culture touchstone. (With apologies to Mr. Monster from Sesame Street and oatmeal raisin, Henson is now the world’s most famous Cookie.) “Cookie has all kinds of fans, all,” says Henson, who nabbed a Golden Globe for the role in January. “I get it. She’s my alter ego — we all need a Sasha Fierce [Beyoncé’s alter-ego].” Adds Fox chairman and CEO Dana Walden, “This is the right role at the right time, which is what it takes sometimes to break out a really special performer.”
GALLERY: 27 of Cookie’s Best Looks on Empire
Henson, 45, is now poised for the biggest moment of her career with her third Emmy nomination, the third season of Empire (which bows Sept. 21 at 9 p.m.), the release of her memoir, Around the Way Girl (on sale Oct. 11), a new cosmetics line with MAC, and a starring role in the awards-hopeful film Hidden Figures (due this winter), in which she plays real-life NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson “This is my first time carrying a show and then going to carry a movie,” says Henson. “That’s a lot. It’s so stressful, and I had to really check myself because it’s so easy to take for granted when you get to a certain level. Like check yourself because people pray to be here.”
For more on Henson, plus our exclusive visit to the set and writers room of Empire‘s third season, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it now – and don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.