Taraji P. Henson is in her moment right now, and it couldn't have happened to a harder working woman. With Empire skyrocketing her profile to new heights, alongside consistently impressive work in films, most recently in the award-nominated box office phenomenon Hidden Figures, she's in a brighter spotlight than ever before. And it's only going to get more intense with next year's Proud Mary, as Henson has gotten her most important project yet. Not only is she a producer on the film, but she also gets to be the film's above-the-title lead. This is a fact that is especially not lost on Taraji P. Henson.
During a set visit this past spring, we had an opportunity to see Proud Mary in action. On top of that, we were given a good amount of time with the film's star, as she was in-between takes and eager to speak with the press. In that conversation, Henson reflected on an experience she had with a prior film, the 2014 thriller No Good Deed, and in particular something that stuck out in her mind was the coverage that film's sleeper success had drawn in its opening weekend. What stuck out was the following:
It's interesting as a woman, because if I were a man, the headlines would have read 'Taraji P. Henson's No Good Deed is number one at the box office.' I was also executive producer on that movie, as a matter of fact, I put that movie together. But I'm not taking away from Idris Elba's executive credit, because he deserves that. But, why is the headline reading 'Idris Elba's'? That hurt my feelings.
Proud Mary is certainly a different beast altogether, as this project wanted, and got, Taraji P. Henson from the word go. On top of that, Henson is also one of the producers of the film, only this time she's undeniably the marketable lead that will be front and center throughout the film's release window. That fact has been reflected in the first trailer for the film, as well as the retro-active feel that the posters for the film have given off. But even when the marketable lead for a film is pretty obvious, that's not always the way the studio will choose to sell their film.
A good example that speaks towards this is when Taraji P. Henson talked about her experience with Hidden Figures. While the film was positioned around the trio of Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, she firmly believes that if this was a gender swapped story, the film would have been marketed around whomever the male equivalent of Katherine Johnson was. To be fair, the film is pretty firmly squared away on Johnson's story, despite including her equally important colleagues, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, into the story's structure.
So why would Taraji P. Henson take the role of Proud Mary, besides the shot at increasing her profile exponentially should the film be a hit? Well, quite simply, it's a change of pace for her during her hiatus from Empire, which saw her making two films around the same time. Henson explained her feelings about the role of Mary as follows:
It was just different from anything I've ever done before. I really love playing different characters. ... The challenge for me is how do you make a character that people could really hate likeable? She does kill a lot of people, but for good reason.
So not only is Proud Mary a good showcase for Taraji P. Henson's skills as a producer and film lead, but it's also a fantastic opportunity for her to show off her acting muscle as well. And as you'll see in the film's teaser trailer, it looks like it's going to be a hell of a ride.
We'll get to see Henson kicking all sorts of criminal underworld ass in Proud Mary on January 12, 2018. In the meantime, feel free to check out what else is opening through next year, courtesy of the 2018 release schedule.