Exclusive Interview: Taraji Henson Talks Black Motherhood, Mike Brown and Movies
Mike Brown. The powerful name of the unarmed 19-year-old shot dead by still unarrested Ferguson, MO officer, Darren Wilson has the entire nation teetering on a simmering, emotionally tense edge. Actress Taraji Henson is a member of this angry support group that still demands justice to a controversial case which has clumsily dragged along with new information still unfolding after Brown’s August 9, 2014 death. “I don’t care if that cop was white, black, polka dotted, that was a senseless murder,” she says, sucking her teeth. “He was already shot with his hands in the air. No need to kill him.”
Sitting in a director’s chair at LA’s posh SLS Hotel, Taraji is supposed to be discussing her nfilm, No Good Deed. Starring opposite Idris Elba, she plays a lonely housewife alluding a killer after willingly inviting him into her home. The psychologically unpredictable film is filled with fury of feminist fight back energy. Featuring Taraji in full combat mode kicking, stabbing, punching, shooting; the character she plays – Terry – is empowered to survive for the sake of her children crying in a nearby room.
“That’s what attracted me to the script. Because she never played the damsel in distress, she never made herself the victim, she knows she made a bad choice. And it’s up to her to get her and her family out,” she says. “So a lot of decisions she’s making is coming from where she is in life. But she gets it back. She gets her power back. And that’s what I love. Watching the journey.”
Taraji’s life experience motivated the character choices she pulled from. The single mother of a 20-year-old son, fears felt on screen for the safety of her children parallels concerns she has today for the fate of her only child, Marcel.
“I tell him to be aware of his surroundings. If something feels weird, get out. You gotta go,” she says, nodding her head. “It’s scary. Cause this world… We’ve come so far, but yet have we? I grew up in the hood. So I know. I’m not speaking from a celebrity status. I’m speaking from personal experience.”
Raised in Washington, DC, the Chocolate City just as easily known for its rampant crime as it is for being home to the White House, Henson grew up the daughter of a police officer. All of this, along with having a son who is nearly the same age that Mike Brown was at the time of his death, makes her outlook on police brutality, Ferguson, and the shivering aftermath, particularly interesting and needed.
“I’m a mother. Every time I look at that woman, it is nothing she can do to bring her son back. I just…I couldn’t fathom that kind of pain. And to have people paint an ugly picture of your son? No one knows what happened in that store. All we got is video. We don’t know what was said. So people are allowed to pick apart. So not only has she lost her son…,” Taraji pauses with a sigh. “Now she has to go through the media running him through the mud. It’s painful. I couldn’t imagine. I just keep falling back to her face and every time they do an interview and she’s like….” Dropping her lip, slumping the shoulders, Taraji mimics the emotionally unavailable, traumatized face of Mike Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. “…and the tears. She’s numb. I don’t ever… I couldn’t imagine.”
In the days and weeks that have followed media images of Mike brown’s lifeless body left lying for hours, bloody in the street, thousands marched and protested through Ferguson and around the nation. Worldwide support comes from mommies, daddies, loved ones, and families of babies globally that have used a new age, social media movement to computerize the revolution televised by journalists in the midst of drama.
Taraji’s tweets made her one of the few Hollywood stars to publicly speak out. “I think people see me as more of a celebrity. And the people that don’t really know me or know my story don’t understand my tweet so they attack me,” she says. “But I ignore them because I’m a mother. And it moves me in a way that I have to speak about it. I have the plateau. God gave me this gift, for a reason. My father always told me, if you are a blessing, you go out into the world and be a blessing.” Amen.
Raqiyah Mays is a proud stepmommy, writer, TV/radio personality, and advocate. Her debut novel The Man Curse will be released by Simon & Schuster in 2015.
Follow her on Twitter @RaqiyahMays