Taraji P. Henson Wants to Walk Away from ‘Empire’ While the Show Is Still on Top

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Taraji P. Henson has shared her preference for big-screen projects in the past. (NASA Kennedy)

Taraji P. Henson doesn’t want to hang around on “Empire” long enough for the show to go stale. She credits that to her character Cookie Lyon’s antics.

“I could not do this forever. No. Cookie wears me out!” Henson told Variety Monday, March 20, of her portrayal of the record label CEO. “She drains me, she is emotionally all over the place. Those writers, they just keep pushing my emotions with every episode. By the 18th episode [of each season], I’m dead. I got to get far away. I don’t wear animal print. I cut my hair into a bob. I don’t wear a weave because I’ve got to get as far away from Cookie as possible.”

The hit Fox drama premiered in 2014 as the network’s highest-rated debut in three years and views for the first season episodes climbed steadily. Ratings have tumbled in later years with season three’s 2016 premiere dropping by 39 percent, according to TheWrap. The show has been renewed for a fourth cycle and still scores as a top-rated scripted series, but Henson may not be around if the show goes into syndication.

“Once it’s syndicated, and then I’m like, ‘Thank you, Goodnight!’ ” Henson told Variety when asked if she had a number of seasons in mind before exiting the series. “I learned this from the women of ‘Sex and the City.’ You’ve got to know when to go out. You don’t want to overstay your welcome. You want to go out on a high. You want to be remembered as the No. 1 show on network.

“I’m going to lose my passion, I know me. And Cookie is enough. I can’t do that for so long.”

Henson, a 22-year big-screen actress who most recently starred in the award-winning film “Hidden Figures,” admitted she enjoys movie making better than TV shoots due to the “corporate” nature of television.

“I’m an artist and my brain doesn’t work like that,” she said. “What I mean by ‘corporate’ is that it’s like a government job almost. You’re still acting, but it’s a different set-up. Film, I like better. You have a day to shoot one scene and you get to let it breathe, and you have one writer for your character, so your character doesn’t feel schizophrenic. Sometimes, my characters feel schizo on television because there are so many opinions and so much input.

“That’s why I like film a little better. One writer, one director, one [studio] head. Not all those voices.”

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