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Empire's Taraji P. Henson Fired Her Entire Team Over A Huge Cookie Fail

When Taraji P. Henson first appeared as Cookie Lyon in "Empire" in 2015, she had already begun to be recognized as a critically acclaimed actress. Henson gained recognition for 2005's "Hustle & Flow," and for her role as Queenie in 2008's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," she earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

Cookie, however, emerged as Henson's defining role. "Empire" follows the successful company Empire Entertainment, helmed by CEO Lucious Lyon. The show unfolds like a hip-hop "King Lear," with Lucious deciding which of his sons will take over the family empire. Matters are complicated when his wife Cookie gets out of prison after 17 years, and she stakes a claim to the company too.

Henson received a number of accolades for the part — including an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe award — which she played from 2015 until "Empire" ended in 2020. It also helped earn her a spot on Time's list of 100 most influential people.

According to Henson, her team failed to capitalize on the vibrancy and icon status of Cookie. In an interview with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, the actor revealed that she fired her team for those reasons. "Everybody had to f***in' go," she said. "Where is my deal? Where's my commercial? Cookie was at the top of the fashion game. Where is my endorsement? What did you have set up for after this? That's why you all haven't seen me in so long. They had nothing set up."

Henson has been vocal about challenges in Hollywood

In July 2020, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that a Cookie-centric "Empire" spinoff was in development at Fox. After the series never came to fruition, Taraji P. Henson called it quits with her team. "All they wanted was another Cookie show, and I said, 'I'll do it, but it has to be right,'" she continued in the same SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview. "And so, when they didn't get it right, I was like, 'Well, that's it,' and they had nothing else. 'You're all f***in' fired."

It's not the first time that Henson has been critical of the entertainment industry. In a December appearance on Gayle King's SiriusXM show, Henson tearfully discussed pay disparity in Hollywood. "I'm just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost," she said (via Deadline). She added, "And you start working a lot, you have a team. Big bills come with what we do. We don't do this alone. It's a whole team behind us. They have to get paid."

Given how Henson's team dropped the ball with regard to her post-"Empire" career, it's easy to see why the actress has been so vocal about her challenges in the industry. Indeed, in the years since the series ended, she has done voice acting work and the TV films "Muppets Haunted Mansion" and "Annie Live!" In 2023, Henson guest-starred in "Abbott Elementary," earning an Emmy nomination for the episode. The actor also stars in the 2023 remake of "The Color Purple."