As we’ve learned through another tumultuous season of Empire, the infamous Lyon dynasty is nothing without its queen. With most fans flocking to the critically acclaimed series every week to see what Cookie’s (played by Taraji P. Henson) up to, the actress says the character is starting to toy with her emotions.
Speaking to Variety last week, the celebrated actress explained how much the character has affected her life. After premiering in 2015 with astronomical ratings, Henson was happy to play a character she was afraid of. “Any role that scares me is a challenge and I don’t back away from challenges,” she said. “That’s how I pick roles — if it scares me, I have to do it. Cookie scared me a bit and the challenge was, how do I make the audience connect and feel and empathize for her? Once I did that work, I was like, okay, people are either going to love her or hate her. Thank god it worked. Phew!”
The role has made her a staple in pop culture, but she doesn’t plan to play Cookie for too long. The Golden Globe winner says she plans to put the broom and leopard prints away when the series reaches syndication (100 episodes). “I could not do this forever. No. Cookie wears me out!” Henson says. Cookie has gone through the breaks since the first season. From losing Lucious a second time to Anika (played by Grace Byers) to her sons facing substance abuse and mental anguish, Cookie has rode an emotional rollercoaster.
“She is emotionally all over the place. Those writers, they just keep pushing my emotions with every episode. By the 18th episode [of each season], I’m dead. I got to get far away. I don’t wear animal print. I cut my hair into a bob. I don’t wear a weave because I’ve got to get as far away from Cookie as possible.” Henson says she loves the role and what it’s done in the pop world, but she thinks it’s best to go out on top.
“I learned this from the women of Sex and the City— you’ve got to know when to go out. You don’t want to overstay your welcome. You want to go out on a high. You want to be remembered as the number one show on network,” Henson said. “I’m going to loose my passion, I know me. And Cookie is enough. I can’t do that for [too] long.”
Since we’re only at 48 episodes, it looks like Cookie is going to be around just a little while longer.