In an appearance with The New York Times, Taraji P. Henson stated that she battled for “a lot of stuff on that set” with her co-stars on “The Colour Purple” and succeeded in doing so. One such instance was transportation and protection to the movie’s Atlanta location, as reports suggest that the cast was initially given rental cars by the production and was then asked to drive themselves to the scene.
“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 stated. “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 furthermore added. “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.”
Henson had to speak up for more reasons than just a driver to be allowed on “The Colour Purple” production. Danielle Brooks disclosed that when the actors first arrived for rehearsals, they were not given dressing rooms or food. This information was disclosed during a recent THR Q&A session for the movie. To fix this, Henson got in touch with producer Oprah Winfrey. On set, Brooks referred to Henson as “our voice box” and a “guide.”
“I remember when we first came and we’re doing rehearsals, they put us all in the same space,” Brooks remarked. “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 recalled speaking with Oprah over the phone when rumors circulated that the actors were not provided with meals or changing rooms during practices. The mega-producer heard her say, “We gotta fix this.”
Henson was the filmmaker’s initial pick, but she nearly missed out on “The Colour Purple” owing of the salary and the fact that she had to try out for the part of Shug Avery. Henson fell into sorrow last month when talking about the pay inequality problems she still encounters in Hollywood, even after her breakout performance on “Empire” and her Oscar nomination. The conversation went viral on SiriusXM.
“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?”