How they got their start: Taraji P. Henson

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: September 11, 2018, 4:47PM

Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Taraji P. Henson is one of today's hottest stars. In 2016, she was named among Time's 100 Most Influential People. She's also the whole reason Empire is considered an award-winning show, after she took home her Golden Globe for her portrayal of Cookie Lyon in 2016.

Longtime fans of Henson saw this all coming. The actress has been sensational in movies since her dramatic turn as Yvette in the 2001 Tyrese Gibson vehicle Baby Boy. You could say she grabbed the wheel at that moment and veered toward superstardom. She immediately got cast in The Division the next year, bringing a swarm of viewers to Lifetime with her, and when that show ended in 2005, she was ready for her close-up.

It'd be hard to imagine anyone else filling the role she took in Hustle & Flow, playing Shug across from her now-Empire co-star Terrence Howard's Djay. That film won an Oscar, and Henson would get scooped up for more Oscar-winning pictures from that point forward, receiving her first Oscar nomination for best supprting actress by 2009 for her role as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Today, any part the queen Taraji P. Henson wants, she deserves, and we're certain there will be more awards in her future - but it does make you start to wonder, how did she get her start?

In the mid-1990s, Warner Bros. launched their brand-new TV network, now known as The WB. The Wayan Bros. was the network's very first show and the famous Looney Tunes character Michigan J. Frog its hopping mascot. In the same block of shows with The Wayan Bros. were three other sitcoms, Unhappily Ever After, Sister, Sister and The Parent 'Hood. This was the block of television fated to introduce Henson to viewers.

Henson's onscreen debut happened on November 16, 1997 on the sitcom The Parent 'Hood, about an upper-middle class black family, the Petersons, who lived in Harlem. On the show, Henson plays a friend of the oldest daughter Zaria, and as you'd probably expect, she's got a lot of attitude, cracking up at jokes at her friend's expense and wide-eying Zaria to add comedic tension.

One of the very first things we see from the character is one of those giant laughs Henson's now famous for on Empire, where cackling at ignorance is kind of Cookie's thing. For fans, it's a reminder that from day one, Henson has been a bright spot, and with four movies out this year, we can expect the star to keep in shining.

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