Taraji P. Henson said in a recent interview with The New York Times that her co-stars on “The Color Purple” got a lot of stuff on set because she fought for it behind the scenes. One such example was rides and security to the film’s Atlanta set, as the production allegedly offered the cast rental cars at first and expected the actors to drive themselves to set.
“They gave us rental cars, and I was like, ‘I can’t drive myself to set in Atlanta.’ This is insurance liability, it’s dangerous. Now they robbing people. What do I look like, taking myself to work by myself in a rental car?” Henson said. “So I was like, ‘Can I get a driver or security to take me?’ I’m not asking for the moon. They’re like, ‘Well, if we do it for you, we got to do it for everybody.’ Well, do it for everybody! It’s stuff like that, stuff I shouldn’t have to fight for. I was on the set of ‘Empire’ fighting for trailers that wasn’t infested with bugs.”
“It wears on your soul because you fight so hard to establish a name for yourself and be respected in this town to no avail,” Henson continued. “With Black films, they just don’t want to take us overseas and I don’t understand that. Black translates all over the world, so why wouldn’t the movies? I have a following in China of all places. Y’all not going to capitalize on that? Don’t everybody want to make money here? I’m not the person that pulls the race card every time, but what else is it, then? Tell me. I’d rather it not be race, please give me something else.”
A driver wasn’t the only thing Henson had to speak up to get on “The Color Purple” set. During a recent Q&A for the film presented by THR, Daniel Brooks revealed the actors did not initially get their own dressing rooms when they showed up for rehearsals, nor was food provided to them at that time. Henson contacted producer Oprah Winfrey to correct this. Brooks called Henson a “guide” and “our voice box” on set.
“I remember when we first came and we’re doing rehearsals, they put us all in the same space,” Brooks said. “We didn’t have our own dressing rooms at the time. We didn’t have our own food…[Oprah] corrected it for us. [Taraji] was our voice. This was my first studio film. Sometimes you do come in saying, ‘Ok, I’ll take whatever they give me. I’m just happy to be here.’ But [Taraji] spoke up for us. You showed me how to do that.”
Henson remembered being on the phone with Oprah once word got out that the cast did not have dressing rooms or food at rehearsals. She told the mega-producer, “We gotta fix this.”
Henson nearly passed on “The Color Purple” due to pay and because she was forced to audition for the role of Shug Avery despite being the director’s top choice. During a viral SiriusXM interview last month, Henson broke down in tears while discussing the pay disparity issues she still faces in Hollywood despite her success on “Empire” and having an Oscar nomination under her belt.
“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do [and] getting paid a fraction of the cost,” Henson said. “I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over…Every time I do something and break another glass ceiling, when it’s time to renegotiate I’m at the bottom again like I never did what I just did, and I’m tired. I’m tired. It wears on you. What does that mean? What is that telling me? If I can’t fight for them coming up behind me then what the fuck am I doing?”
“The Color Purple” is playing in theaters nationwide from Warner Bros.