Taraji P. Henson is still perplexed by the public’s reaction to her show of support for Viola Davis at the 2015 Emmy Awards.
“I was annoyed that was a headline because I was like, ‘that’s what I do,’ ” she told “TODAY” co-hosts during an April 7 interview. “Isn’t that what you do? Like, applaud people that you love. Come on. Why is that a headline?” she asked rhetorically.
That night at the awards show, Henson and Davis were both nominated for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Drama for their respective roles as Cookie Lyon on “Empire” and Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away With Murder.”
Other nominees included Tatiana Maslany, Claire Danes, Robin Wright and Elisabeth Moss. Davis ultimately won the primetime award, making her the first Black woman to do so. When the EGOT winner’s name was announced, Henson jumped from her seat and excitedly wrapped her arms around her friend.
She continued to join in the thunderous applause as Davis delivered a rousing speech about her victory being for all actresses of color who fail to be recognized for their work due to the industry’s legacy of struggling to develop diverse characters.
The moment shared between the two women soon became a trending topic on social media. Countless outspoken fans said the women’s embrace and seeing two Black women support each other moved them to tears.
But for Henson, her support for Davis is nothing new.
In fact, they have been friends for nearly two decades. “Viola knows the love we have for each other,” she said. The mental health advocate recalled a time in 2009 when she fought to share a magazine cover with her.
That same year, they were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars: Henson for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and Davis for “Doubt.”
“I remember I got offered the cover of Ebony magazine,” recalled the “Baby Boy” star. “They wanted to pair me with some other women and I was like, does that make sense to you? When we have … two Back women nominated in the same category. Why not Viola? And so I fought for her to get on that cover. She never forgot that.”
In 2019, Davis reflected on that experience in a heartfelt birthday post for Henson.
“I wouldn’t have gotten this cover if you hadn’t insisted,” she wrote in the post’s caption that accompanied a snapshot of the magazine’s “The Ebony Power 150: The Most Influential Blacks in America” edition.
“It was just supposed to be you, but you told them you wouldn’t do it if you couldn’t do it with me. We held each other up during the Oscars that year. Reminded each other that we deserved to be there. That epitomizes sisterhood, sister love. Love you @tarajiphenson. You are a rare cut diamond,” continued the “Air” co-lead.
Henson shared an equally enthusiastic reaction to Regina King’s big win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for her role in “American Crime” at the Emmys that year as well.