Taraji P. Henson is considered Hollywood royalty. Yet, it took working with Tyler Perry for the actress to finally get paid her worth.
Proving Her Worth
During a conversation in 2019 with Ellen Pompeo for Variety’s “Actors On Actors” series, Henson revealed there was a point in her career where she was continuously having to prove she was worth a pretty penny.
“After Empire, see ’cause it was proving my worth. I think the industry knew I was talented. They got that part, but it’s about money. It’s about — are you bankable? Can you open a film? Will I get what I put in this film back, you know? So, I had to continuously prove that. And it’s like I’ve just been trying to prove it and prove it. That’s why I work so hard,” Henson explained to Variety.
Working with Tyler Perry: Having to prove herself finally changed when she worked alongside Tyler Perry, who was the first to not waiver on Henson’s expectations.
“I was asking for half a million. I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person that gave — that broke the standard that I was getting paid for films, and he gave me $500,000,” Henson told Variety.
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On declining roles: Now, Henson feels she is in a space in her career where she can turn down roles that aren’t paying her adequately.
At one point, she was juggling bills and the pursuit of aspirations, making it harder to turn down roles.
“I was never in a position where I could not take a job. It’s just by the grace of God, they have all been really good characters to sink my teeth in, but it was never a situation where I was like, ‘Hmm, I’m not going to do that.’ Now, I’m finally there twenty years later. I’m finally to the place where I can go, ‘Oh, you know what, I feel like I’ve done that or they’re not paying enough … I’m finally there,’” Henson said, according to Variety.
Henson Hopes To See Change
At the time, Henson recognized her victories but understood the road toward fair compensation would likely be long-winded, especially for her Black counterparts. However, the actress shared that she still hoped to see allies speak up while discussing the state of the industry.
“It’s not going to change until privilege reaches across the table and helps,” Henson explained at the time. “That’s the only way it changes. Otherwise, we’re playing a rerun.”