I’m almost certain that, when she was cast as Cookie Lyon on Fox’s breakout primetime soap opera "Empire" last year, if anyone would’ve asked Taraji P. Henson if the role would result in the kind of media attention she’s getting today (attention she wasn’t getting prior), even she would’ve probably answered in the negative. How does one really know in advance that you’ve got a smashing hit on your hands?
And yet, here she is… in demand everywhere; most recently, her alluring photo spread for W Magazine (check out the pics and profile here).
Of course, as I said months ago, I hoped that all the attention would lead to more work for her – especially feature film work that allowed her to flex and stretch her acting muscles beyond the kinds of roles she’s often been asked to play in the past, which limited her range, I felt.
Well, now she’ll get to the kind of opportunity she may not have gotten before she brought Cookie Lyon to life on the small screen; and this time, it’ll be on the big screen.
Henson has booked the lead role in "Hunger Games" producer Robin Bissell’s feature film directorial debut, which will based on the true story of the relationship between Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, according to Deadline.
To be titled "The Best of Enemies," the film, set in the 1960s, will detail the battle and eventual friendship between Ann Atwater, a working class, single black mother in Durham, NC, who quit her job as a household domestic to join the civil rights fight, and C. P. Ellis, a working class white man also from Durham, who, as a young man joined the Ku Klux Klan.
The short version of the story goes… During the 1960s, as the country struggled with race matters, Atwater and Ellis met on opposite sides of the public school integration debate. Their encounters were charged with hatred and suspicion. But, eventually, in an amazing set of transformations, each came to see how the other had been exploited by the South’s rigid power structure, and they would form a friendship that flourished within an explosively bigoted environment at the time.
Author Osha Gray Davidson wrote a book on the pair titled "The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South," which was published in 2007. I assume Bissell’s feature film will borrow from the book, which, according to Amazon, "is rich with details about the rhythms of daily life in the mid-twentieth-century South," providing "a vivid portrait of a relationship that defied all odds. By placing this very personal story into broader context, Osha Gray Davidson demonstrates that race is intimately tied to issues of class, and that cooperation is possible — even in the most divisive situations — when people begin to listen to one another."
Obviously a timely project announcement in light of recent race-inspired events.
Tobey Maguire (yes, former Spider-Man) will produce along with Danny Strong, co-creator of "Empire," as well as Matthew Plouffe.
Henson will of course play Ann Atwater. Her "opponent" has yet to be cast.
Principal photography is set to begin in early 2016.
This reads like it could be the kind of role and project that draws critical acclaim, including awards attention.
Henson last appeared on the big screen in "No Good Deed" last year.