In the new action flick Proud Mary, Oxon Hill, Md. native and Howard University alum Taraji P. Henson burns up the silver screen as a hit-woman with heart.
The Golden Globe winner talked to me a little more about the film on Great Day Washington ahead of its Friday release:
Markette Sheppard: In the movie, we see your character has a dresser drawer full of guns, drives a Maserati and drinks Hennessy… What is Proud Mary all about?!
Taraji P. Henson: Yeah, well um, you know. Mary was orphaned at a young age and the streets raised her. She works for a mob family in Boston and when the audience meets her she's trying to transition into a better life because one of her 'kills' left a child an orphan.
Markette: You're an executive producer on this film, which also stars Danny Glover. What was it like being at the head of a film when the national dialogue is all about empowering women?
Taraji: I think the Universe has a unique way of delivering what's needed at the time when it's needed. This film came to me. Clint Culpepper—I've done like three or four movies with him, I lost count—but he's the president of Screen Gems and he sent this script to me and I just thought, wow, the timing is impeccable. What a great way to change the narrative about equal rights for women in Hollywood, particularly when it comes to action films because you rarely see an older women, let's just say seasoned...
Markette: How about veteran actresses?
Taraji: ... a veteran—there you go!—play these roles, particularly African-Americans. So, I thought, what a great way to change the narrative. What a great way to break yet another glass ceiling.
Markette: It's so awesome! I mean, do you walk into the room like Cookie Lyon on the first day of shooting, with the purple fur coat on and say, "OK, this is what we're going to do."
Taraji: (laughs) I don't do all of that, but there is a certain bravado you have to have when you are producing a project.
Markette: I love seeing you in this action role. I'm thinking of the resurgence of powerful African-American women like your Foxy Browns, and then you have Rebel on BET and these women who are really taking matters into their own hands. How much of the action sequences you do... how did you prep for Proud Mary?
Taraji: We had just wrapped on Empire. I had about five days to get a little R&R and then I went straight into production. But what saved me was that I did a lot of musical theater, a lot of dance and choregraphy. I'm really good at feeling the moment and counting it out, and that's usually what it is, any kind of choreography, whether it's fighting or dancing, it's like counts. So, it's like 5,6,7,8 and instead of plié or pirouette, it's like punch or throw or kick. So I think that saved me. I'm coordinated!
Markette: Does your musical theater background go all the way back to when you were here in DC at Howard University? I also read that you went to Oxon Hill High School.
Taraji: Absolutely. Both true. All of that training came from Howard University. H-U! Had to do it! (laughs)
Proud Mary starring Taraji P. Henson, Danny Glover and Margaret Avery opens in theaters everywhere Friday, Jan. 12.
Markette Sheppard is host of Great Day Washington and your resident "Mom at the Movies." She is also a wife, mother of a rambunctious 4-year-old and avid film lover. You can see more of her movie previews and reviews weekdays at 9 am.