Taraji P. Henson Breaks Down In Tears As She Confirms She's Considered Quitting Acting

The "Color Purple" star became visibly emotional in a recent interview while sharing the reason behind the potential move.

As she returns to the big screen in one of this year’s most anticipated films, Taraji P. Henson is getting candid about the pay inequity she faces as a Black woman in Hollywood.

The actor became visibly emotional in footage that went viral Wednesday following her recent conversation with Gayle King on SiriusXM, alongside fellow “Color Purple” star Danielle Brooks and the film’s director, Blitz Bazawule.

When King asked about a report that claimed Henson was considering quitting acting altogether, the Academy Award nominee began tearing up.

“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, being paid a fraction of the cost,” Henson said. “I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired.”

The actor also pointed out that her profession required her to have a team of people supporting her behind the scenes.

“I hear people go, ‘You work a lot.’ I have to. The math ain’t mathing,” she said. “Big bills come with what we do. We don’t do this alone. The fact that we’re up here, there’s a whole entire team behind us. They have to get paid.”

Henson endeared herself to a generation of television viewers as Cookie Lyon on “Empire,” for which she received a Golden Globe. She made her film acting debut in 1998’s “Streetwise,” and nabbed an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Queenie in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt. In 2016, she starred with Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer in the smash film “Hidden Figures,” which received three Oscar nominations.

From left: Danielle Brooks, Blitz Bazawule, Gayle King and Taraji P. Henson.
From left: Danielle Brooks, Blitz Bazawule, Gayle King and Taraji P. Henson.
Cindy Ord via Getty Images

In “The Color Purple,” Henson is part of all-star cast that also includes Fantasia Barrino. Early reviews of the film, a musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, have called it an “exhilarating, larger-than-life journey” and “a joy to watch.”

Yet despite the many accolades she’s received, Henson told King that she’s treated like a novice when it comes to negotiating contracts for film and TV roles.

“It seems every time I do something and I break another glass ceiling, when it’s time to renegotiate, I’m at the bottom again, like I never did what I just did,” she said. “And I’m just tired. It wears on you, you know?”

Henson has touched on her experiences with pay disparity in a number of previous interviews. In 2019, she told Variety that she’d asked for “half a million” before signing on for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” only to ultimately receive $150,000 for the role.

And in an interview published earlier this month, she told The Hollywood Reporter that she’d been “fighting tooth and nail every project” for adequate pay.

“Listen, I’ve been doing this for two decades and sometimes I get tired of fighting because I know what I do is bigger than me. I know that the legacy I leave will affect somebody coming up behind me,” she told the outlet, before going on to reference other Black female actors.

“My prayer is that I don’t want these Black girls to have the same fights that me and Viola [Davis], Octavia [Spencer], we out here thugging it out.”

Among those to express support for Henson this week was her “Think Like a Man” co-star Gabrielle Union.

“Not a damn lie told. Not. A. Damn. Lie,” Union wrote Wednesday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “We go TO BAT for the next generation and hell even our own generation and above.”

“The Color Purple” is set to hit U.S. theaters next week.

Watch video of Henson’s interview with King below.

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