The rest of the story
Home is where the heart is for ‘Above the Fold’ star Taraji P. Henson
By Aja Chestine 01/29/2014
Returning to her theatrical roots, Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson headlines at the Pasadena Playhouse in the world premiere of “Above the Fold,” providing a bird’s eye view of the pitfalls and challenges journalists sometimes face in producing stories. The play also exposes the massive scrutiny applied by members of the press to high-profile cases, sometimes manufacturing information based on preconceived notions well before the facts are made available to the public. .
Written by Bernard Weintraub and directed by Steven Robman, “Above the Fold” chronicles the journey of Jane, an African-American newspaper reporter from New York who heads to a university in the South to investigate the suspected rape of a young African-American woman by three white fraternity boys.
Just coming off her exit as Joss Carter from the CBS drama “Person of Interest,” Henson opened up in a recent interview with the Pasadena Weekly about what led her to take on the thought-provoking role of Jane.
After reading the script, “I was attracted to her struggle as a black woman in a dying business with aspirations and talent; but yet still feeling like she couldn’t grow because of the glass ceiling,” Henson explained.
Henson hasn’t done theater in a while, but says, “It was time to sharpen my tools” with this, her first lead role in a theatrical performance.
Henson said the theater is totally different than television and movies. “In theater, there is no learning of lines the same day. Nor do you have the luxury of cuts and editing. You have to learn the entire script; beginning and middle to end,” she said. Henson stressed that every night you have to be present and listening, because the audience is watching live. She feels that the stage is a place where actors get a chance to become rock stars.
“There’s instant gratification,” she observed. “You don’t have to wait until the movie premiere or the TV show airs to see if the jokes work. You know right then and there, and you can feel the audience’s energy.”
This production forced Henson to work in ways that she had forgotten about; among them the numerous hours of studying lines and sitting down with an acting coach, which she hasn’t done in years.
“Movies and television have made me quite lazy,” Henson jokingly confessed. “But I felt like I needed this experience. It really has been good for me”.
Henson has built an impressive resume, starring is such films as “Baby Boy,” “Hustle & Flow,” “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” “Think Like a Man” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in which she was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for Best Supporting Actress.
This year, Henson has three movies set for release: “From the Rough,” “Think like a Man Too” and” No Good Deed.”
“From the Rough” is the true story of Catana Starks, who the 43-year-old Henson portrays. Starks is a former Tennessee State University Tigers swimming coach who became the first woman to coach a men’s golf team. The movie also stars R&B singer/actress Letoya Luckett and the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Henson says the film will have a small release in April. If it does well, it will roll out nationwide. “So we need the people to come out and support this film,” she said.
In June, Henson will return as Lauren in the romantic comedy “Think Like a Man Too, “a sequel to the 2012 box office hit. To date, that film has grossed close to $100 million worldwide. The sequel returns the film’s ensemble cast with a few new faces.
When asked if the second movie was as fun to make as the first one, Henson laughed. “Come on,” she said. “With this cast — and we were in Vegas … that’s all I need to say about that.”
“No Good Deed” is a crime thriller that opens in mid-September. Henson will co-star with actor and sex symbol Idris Elba. “There was no romance,” she insisted. “He stalked me,” she joked. “We fought each other and did a lot of trash talking.”
Henson shined a light on how she manages her personal life and commandeers a hectic professional schedule while raising her only child, Marcel Johnson, as a single mother.
“I will always be a mom first, but it’s much easier being a parent and actress now that he’s 19 years old,” she said.
When asked what keeps her grounded in the entertainment industry, Henson said she owes her success to her family and friends.
“I have amazing girlfriends and a strong family unit. They’re supportive and love me for just being TJ,” she said.
Instead of keeping company with other Hollywood A-listers, Henson revealed that she’s really a homebody. “I am very much domesticated,” she said.
During her down time she loves to cook; chili, meatloaf and collard greens are among her favorite dishes.
“I love my house” Henson added. “When I’m there, I like to curl up and watch a movie or sit out on the patio with a good book and a glass of wine.”
Whether onstage, onscreen or sitting on her sofa, home is where Taraji P. Henson finds herself.
Opening night for “Above the Fold” is Sunday at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. The production runs through Feb. 23. For tickets, call (626) 356-7529. Visit pasadenaplayhouse.org