For Taraji P. Henson, The Super Bowl Holds A Deeper Meaning

Family and friends gather around the small screen every year to dine on finger foods while they reveal their best predictions for the Super Bowl. For actress Taraji P. Henson, the annual NFL event not only provides a time for cheerful large gatherings, but it also brings back memories of one family member that she holds close to her heart.

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In an interview with USA Today ahead of Sunday’s matchup (Feb. 5), the Empire actress shared that her late father was a huge fan of football, and made it a Sunday afternoon tradition to watch the games.

“It’s a big deal for me because I lost my dad, and football was such a big part of us on Sundays,” she said. “…I love being this close to it and wish that he was alive to actually go to a Super Bowl because I don’t think he’s ever been to a Super Bowl when he was alive.”

In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Tonight, the award-winning actress shared that her father’s spirit lives on through her, specifically within her character of Cookie Lyon on FOX’s hit series, Empire. “A lot of Cookie comes from my father, who was no holds barred. A lot of the one-line zingers are things my dad would say.”

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The Howard University alumna recently won a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for her role in Hidden Figures. The film has topped the box office in record-smashing numbers, and looks to be a prime contender for the Oscars later this February.