Taraji P. Henson is paid to be “that bitch” on a regular basis. In addition to constructing Fox TV’s Empire’s enticingly flawed convict-turned-record exec Cookie Lyon, the award-winning actress has a reputation for portraying strong women with a low tolerance for BS. Her latest film, Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, releasing nationwide today, follows suit with a gripping storyline that pushes her character to the edge of her own sanity while questioning everyone around her.
Check out the actress’s history of taking on strong characters, flaws and all, who kill it on screen.
Baby Boy (2001): Henson shines opposite Tyrese Gibson as dedicated girlfriend Yvette in her breakout role. Throughout the ‘hood classic, the foolishly-in-love mother calls out Jody, her selfish boyfriend, on his constant infidelities and sense of entitlement. Though she goes through her share of pain at the hands of the man she loves, she also forces Jody to see what he was taking for granted while constantly encouraging him to do better.
Hustle & Flow (2005): Pregnant prostitute Shug may be a soft-spoken sweetheart at its beginning, but she eventually grows into a more assertive woman on her way to becoming her best self by the film’s end. Considering her dire circumstances, the once-hopeless love interest of Terrence Howard’s character, DJay, develops confidence she never knew she had.
Smokin’ Aces (2006): Proud Mary, released in January, wasn’t the first film in which Henson played a gun-toting assassin. This film found the D.C. girl playing hit woman Sharice Watters working with partner/ lover Georgia Sykes, played by Alicia Keys. Together, these two wreck shop on the hunt for Buddy “Aces” Israel, leaving nothing but wigs and shell casings in their wake.
Talk to Me (2007): A character as big as Petey Greene would require a love interest just as loud, brash, hilarious and real as he was, and Henson portrays his (real-life) audacious girlfriend Vernell Watson in the poignant biopic starring Don Cheadle.
I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009): Though not her first Tyler Perry project, this was Henson’s debut as the leading lady for the playwright and director. Lounge singer April is a hustler in every sense of the word, but she is forced to reconsider her ways when vices such as alcohol and married men no longer do the trick.
Think Like a Man (2012): Lauren is the classic “strong Black woman” we all strive to become, but she is encouraged to rein in her #BlackGirlMagic so that she doesn’t emasculate her man. She learns to compromise but never turns full puppet for her new bae, inadvertently teaching him how to love a woman with her own mind, goals and accomplishments.
Empire (2015-present): Cookie Lyon is not only the Golden Globe winner’s most savage alter ego, she is also one of the most badass characters the small screen has seen in years.
Hidden Figures (2016): Her portrayal of Katherine G. Johnson as a key mathematician who contributed to NASA’s early work is nothing short of amazing, telling the story of one of the most overlooked yet brilliant minds of the 20th century. How badass is that?
Proud Mary (2018): This sleeper action flick finds the Oscar-nominated actress back on a killing spree, channeling her inner Cleopatra Jones for the high-energy release.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (2018): Henson’s turn as Melinda, a faithful wife repeatedly done wrong by her husband, finds the star in one of her darkest roles yet, almost driven to insanity by her spouse and the “other woman.” With her ride-or-die mentality taken advantage of, she allows her bitterness to manifest into a full-blown rage that any woman scorned will certainly recognize, even if she’s e not acrimonious enough to act upon it.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony is in theaters now!