The Hardest Part of Playing Cookie On Empire, According To Taraji P. Henson

cookie empire

Without a doubt, one of the most explosive and engaging characters on TV these days is Cookie Lyon, the sassy and conniving mountain of confidence played by Taraji P. Henson on Fox's Empire. Cookie is the kind of character who has her hands in everyone else's plotlines, but according to the actress, the hardest part of the job isn't directly tied to doing anything in front of the cameras, but is more about how it has affected her everyday life. Here's Henson amusingly dishing it out.

You're walking down the street and they're just like, 'Hey Cookie' --- maybe I didn't want the world to see how I looked today, maybe I wore these sweats yesterday. See, it was fine until Cookie came, I was okay under the radar, I could go to Target. I never saw that coming. I go from this normal life to having to find a house on a private gated road, it's crazy.

It's definitely not the rarest of observations for a popular entertainer to realize the futility of trying to retain a pre-fame lifestyle once all the recognition has come, but it's particularly rough for Taraji P. Henson. After all, Cookie Lyon is one of the most fashionable people on all of television, and her outfits have been known to steal scenes away from actual speaking actors. So audiences, for better or worse, have come to expect a certain over-the-top flair from seeing Henson on a weekly basis, and the actress doesn't want to worry about those kind of people leering at her checking her mail in some two-day sweatpants with her hair in a sloppy bun.

Taraji P. Henson talked about this particular hindrance with Ryan Reynolds as part of the "Actors on Actors" interview series from Variety, where she also said she can no longer take part in doing people-watching, an activity she enjoys, because now all of the people are watching her. The only way to combat this kind of thing would be to make Cookie Lyon less magnificent and less enthralling and less watchable, and nobody is gonna do that to Cookie. Not Lucious. Not Fox. Nobody!

On Empire, Taraji P. Henson shares the screen with a lot of people, from her fellow Lyons portrayers to a seemingly endless line of other familiar faces and guest stars. But nobody manages to take the spotlight away from Cookie, and if Empire's ratings can keep from dipping too low, Henson will have quite a few more years of avoiding Target and other department stores in the future. She said she's tried wigs, but surely the show's costume department can slap together a fantastic incognito look for her, no?

Empire airs Wednesday nights on Fox, and there are three intense Season 3 episodes left before the drama goes into its winter hiatus, returning to the network on March 22. And you'll be able to see Taraji P. Henson on the big screen again when the NASA-based drama There's a lot of time in between that will be ripe for more TV picks, so head to our fall TV schedule and midseason premiere schedule to see what's on the way.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.