How ‘Abbott Elementary’ Made Taraji P. Henson’s Hollywood Dreams Come True

It only took a couple of decades, but Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson is finally making her Hollywood dreams come true, with a starring role in a prominent sitcom.

“This is literally what I’ve wanted to do for over 20 years,” Henson said in a recent interview with TheWrap. Of course, she’s referring to her role on ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” in the show’s second season, where she plays Vanetta, the loud and unreliable mother of staunch and loyal leading lady Janine (Quinta Brunson).

“I am grateful for the career that I have had, instead of starting as a comedy actress and showing that I am dramatic. But now this is easy, because this is just what I do.

But how does an Academy Award-nominated actress land on her role in an Emmy-winning workplace sitcom?

“I was already a huge fan of the show, like everyone else in the world, but I was on ‘That’s My Jam’ and I was competing against Quinta and I said, ‘Girl, if you ever want me on the show, I’m there. ‘ The next thing I know, he’s calling,” Henson said.

Of course, the prospect of a season at “Abbott Elementary” was made all the more appealing by the character he was offered.

Quinta Brunson and Taraji P. Henson in "Abbott Elementary"
Quinta Brunson and Taraji P. Henson in “Abbott Elementary”

“The character breakdown just made sense. It made me understand who Vanetta was as a character and gave me more information about who she was,” Henson said. “We all know this dynamic between parents and children, where the child was more of a parent than a parent and I loved that and wanted to be a part of it.”

“The writing is so clever and so exact, so detailed, that I didn’t have to do much more than suspend my disbelief and get on paper,” he continued. “But I understood who this woman was, and she made me understand who Janine was. I was honored that Quinta trusted me with that.”

That wasn’t the dynamic Henson had with her own son growing up, which was partly because, at 24, she was older than Vanetta when she took on the role of mother.

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“I was a little more responsible and took my role a little more seriously. He was not a teenager, he had already finished university. I think I was better equipped, prepared and ready to be a father,” Henson said. “I think what happened with Vanetta is that she got pregnant and she was like, ‘Okay, well, this is what it is.’ But she never gave up on her lifestyle.”

As excited as Henson was at the opportunity and as much as she felt she understood the character, it must still be a bit intimidating for even the most veteran screen stars, walking onto a set with a group of actors whose chemistry is clicking. throughout obscene levels. So how did she find the cast and crew when she arrived?

“They are a beautiful group of artists and people. They welcomed me. I felt at home, like I was welcomed into the family,” Henson said. “And I didn’t want to leave, literally. I pray they call me back. I can’t wait to return.”

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