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Exclusive: Taraji P. Henson Admits She Doesn't Want Roles That 'Feel Repetitive': 'I Want To Pick A Character That Scares Me'

Nov. 22 2022, Published 2:43 p.m. ET

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Taraji P. Henson is known for her dramatic roles — playing Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures and Cookie Lyon in Empire — but she also can make people laugh out loud. When the actress is looking for her next part, she never wants to be complacent.

"In terms of how I pick a character, I ask, 'Does it scare me?' If it scares me, that's great. That means it's challenging, and it's going to challenge me," the 52-year-old, who is teaming up with Amazon and Alexa as part of Artemis I, the first of several NASA missions intended to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, exclusively tells Morning Honey. "I look for things that scare the heck out of me because I know it's going to be challenging, and I also don't want roles that are repetitive. I don't want to repeat a role I've already played."

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In fact, the brunette beauty admits she takes her job very seriously. "I know I have young eyeballs looking upon me," she states of being a role model. "Art inspires, art creates life, art saves life. I'm very serious about my art because I know how it affects others and how many people can be touched through my art."

Over the years, Henson has made a name for herself in the entertainment world and received many accolades, including nabbing the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (for Empire), making history as the first Black actress in the history of the awards to do so.

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"I don't wake up and go, 'Hey, I have to be responsible today!' I'm hopefully responsible every day. Humans need each other and we make the world go around. I'm interested in humans and our interactions and learning about other cultures. I think the arts is a great place to do that and you can also teach through your art," she notes.

"My family made me feel very confident," she adds. "I have friends that surround me and love me just as I am. They're not trying to change me and they've given me confidence. We boost each other's confidence. It's all in the company you keep. If you don't have the power to stand in the mirror and tell yourself you're the best, then make sure you hang around people that are going to tell you you're great until you can find the voice to say it on your own."

Going forward, Henson is excited about upcoming musical remake of The Color Purple. "I play Shug Avery and people are going to get to see me sing in a way that they didn't know I could sing," she states. "I remember when we were going through the shutdown during the pandemic and I couldn't be creative on stage or in front of a lens. I went to my salon and I became creative with nails and hair. I was making wigs and coloring wigs, so I am always going to figure out a way to create because it's therapeutic for me."

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The Academy Award winner has big dreams of playing a superhero in the future, as she hasn't played a "really bad villain."

"I'm taking meetings that's for sure," she says.

Otherwise, Henson can't pick her favorite role to date. "Every choice I've made has gotten me here," she declares.

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In fact, on Monday, November 21, Henson's voice was in space, as she teamed up with Amazon and Alexa as part of Artemis I to be the first person to interact with Alexa in space from mission control in Houston, Texas.

Henson, who is known for her role in Hidden Figures, was tapped for the partnership as the flick is "all about exploration of space and women's involvement," she shares. "It makes sense. I loved the idea. I love to continue to be in the forefront of getting the next generation of engineers and scientists excited about the future. We're not going to be here forever so we need this next generation to come and push beyond the moon!"

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After starring in the historic flick, which debuted in 2016, Henson says it "propelled me to know more" about space. "I never had an interest in math and science growing up until this movie came along," she reveals. "I felt so inspired to be interested in STEM and coding, and once the movie came out, the numbers shot through the roof with kids being interested in STEM education. It's amazing."

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