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THE FAMILY THAT PREYS | An Interview with Taraji P. Henson

An Interview with Taraji P. Henson
by Wilson Morales

September 8, 2008

Since she received world recognition for her role in ‘Hustle and Flow’, life has been peachy for Taraji P. Henson. Not only is she getting more role for films, but she’s also doing some TV work, having done episodic work for ‘CSI’ and ‘Boston Legal’. Who could her action performance in the gun-toting film, ‘Smokin’ Aces’ where she was paired with Alicia Keys? She’s also played opposite Don Cheadle in ‘Talk to Me’ where she wore this funky wig. Coming up next for Henson is a role that has her paired with Sanaa Lathan again. The two of them played best friends in ‘Something New’ and in ‘The Family That Preys’ they play sisters who are totally opposite from each other. She also gets to be paired with co-star and director Tyler Perry in the film.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Henson talks about working with Sanaa again, sibling rivalry, working with Tyler and her upcoming film with Brad Pitt.

What attracted you to the role?

Taraji P. Henson: Well, of course, I wanted to work with Tyler Perry, but there three names attached to the script by the time it was offered to me and that was Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates and Sanaa Lathan. I just knew I had to be a part of this. When I read the script, I really like the character of Pam, who was married and had a simple life. I consider myself a funny person.

Who’s the older sister in the film, your character or Sanaa’s?

TPH: I believe my character was the older sister but not by much.

Can you talk about the relationship between the sisters and why they were both different from each other?

TPH: I think that in every sibling relationship there is a rivalry. I can only draw from my own personal experience. I have a much younger sister than me whose has had everything handed to her on a silver platter, but when she needs help, I’ll bail her out. I didn’t have that growing up, so when I look at her, I say to myself, ‘Spoiled, spoiled.’ I love her to death but she is a spoiled brat and I probably had something to do with that too. There is always that sibling rivalry whether it’s brother-brother, sister-sister, or sister-brother. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you still love each other. In the film, when Sanaa’s character gets slapped, I’m ready to defend her because I’m still her sister. That’s family and I won’t let anyone cross that line. At the end of the day, we have our little inside wars, underneath it all, there’s still love.

This is the second time you have worked Sanaa Lathan since ‘Something New’. How was it working with her again? Is it a much relax relationship on the set?

TPH: Absolutely. ‘Something New’ was like to me the appetizer for this film. We didn’t really, really get to work together on that film a lot, but we did this time. ‘Something New’ was more like the ice breaker and when we got to this film, it more like, ‘Hey girl!’ It helped.

How was it working with Alfre Woodard?

TPH: Like I said before, one of the main reasons why I took this film is because I wanted to work with her. I loved all the scenes with her. Alfre is such a giving, generous actress. There were times when we were off-camera and she would be crying just to give us the energy that we needed we were shot close up. She’s incredible. A true vet.

How was it working with Tyler as an actor and as a director?

TPH: You know what was really strange when I first got on the set, he would clear the set for rehearsals and I would be standing there and he would ask me what I was waiting for, and I would remember, ‘That’s right. You are the director.’ I was actually standing there waiting for the director to come in and yell ‘Action’. When he was acting, he wore a wig and when he was directing, he had it off. It was a bit confusing, but I got used to it.

One of the foundations that Tyler set in this film is that your character and his are a happily married couple who also go through some arguments but work to resolve them without it getting out of hand. Did you appreciate that slice of reality?

TPH: Yes. It wasn’t one of those ‘I hate you, I want a divorce.’ scenes. There are people like my grandparents who before he passed away were married for 60 years. That takes works and we are from a different generation. This is a quick fix-it generation. Not everybody believes in sticking around and making things work. The majority would lean to getting out of the marriage whereas back in the day, women didn’t have anywhere to go. They had to work it out. I think our marriage is a beautiful thing to see and that not everything has to end in a nasty way. These are two people who try to become one. For Sanaa and Rockmund’s characters, they are two people who have separate morals and backgrounds; so no wonder there is trouble there.

What do you think is the message in the film?

TPH: I think people will take away from the film what they need to take away. For me, the message is that without family you are nothing. It’s also karma. Whatever you put out in the universe, you will surely get back.

You also have another film coming this year, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ with Brad Pitt. What’s your role in that film?

TPH: Brad Pitt is born with this rare aging disease where he is aging backwards. He may act young but he has the body of an 80 year old man. He’s left on my doorstep in 1919. My character has an old folks home and like any good ole southern woman, she wouldn’t aleave a stray cat outside. She takes him in and she thinks he’s dying so she has a doctor come over and the doctor says his bones are old, he’s blind, he’s deaf and he’s an old man who will die any day now. So I figure I will give him the best 5 minutes he has left on this earth and hits him with some love, but ends up raising him.

How was it working on that set?

TPH: It was incredible, but it was a lot of work. It was character acting I was having to play.I had. My characters ages from 26 to 71 so I’m playing ages that I haven’t been yet. It’s a period piece and the women talk a certain way and there was a certain economics status. It was a lot of work.

When does ‘Hurricane Season’ come out?

TPH: That comes out Christmas Day, the same day as ‘Benjamin Button’. ‘Hurricane Season’ stars Forest Whitaker and it’s actually a true story on a basketball team that was dismember before Hurricane Katrina and what happens to this team during and after Katrina and how they come back as a team. He’s an amazing coach with the support of his family, me as his wife, and our daughter. It’s about how they came back as a team to win a championship. I also have a film called ‘Not Easily Broken’ with Morris Chestnut that comes out on January 9th next year.

Why should anyone see ‘The Family That Preys’?

TPH: Because I’m in it and Sanaa is in it. LOL. They should go and see it because Tyler Perry again is trying to stretch his muscle and do something different and at the end of the day, it’s a beautiful film.





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