This past year, Taraji P. Henson has been advocating for Black actresses to get paid their worth and receive better working conditions.
Her latest feature was in The Color Purple, which came out on Dec. 25, 2023. It pulled in a whopping $18 million from 3,152 theaters in North America, marking the second-biggest Christmas Day opening of all time. Produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, it starred Henson, Colman Domingo, Fantasia, Ciara and many others.
However, a New York Times interview published today (Jan. 5) revealed that the Golden Globe Award winner almost passed on the film. Henson claimed that despite being tapped to play Shug Avery by director Blitz Bazawule, she was still asked to try out for the role.
“Oftentimes, in the industry, you can be the director’s choice but not the studio’s, so I had to audition. I had to check my ego because I was like, ‘Why am I auditioning?’” she explained. “I mean, I get the singing because there’s nothing out there that shows me singing like that, but I had to sing, dance and they read me. I was like, ‘Ouch.’”
Things seemingly became more frustrating when it came time to negotiate her salary. “I almost had to walk away from [The] Color Purple,” Henson told the publication. “I haven’t had a raise since [2018’s] Proud Mary, and I still didn’t get a raise. They don’t care. They’re always looking for a deal and trying to pay you the least amount.”
Henson’s comments came on the heels of her interview with Gayle King, where she broke down in tears while discussing being underpaid. Since then, women like Keke Palmer, Coco Jones and Gabrielle Union have all voiced their support.
Additionally, old comments from Mo’Nique and Viola Davis about Hollywood pay disparities surfaced online.