What Will Taraji P. Henson Do After ‘Empire?’

Taraji P. Henson has been acting since the late 90s and made her film debut in the 2001 coming of age film, Baby Boy. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role in Benjamin Button alongside Brad Pitt, but her breakout role was not from any film she’s starred in. Henson gained a global fanbase playing Cookie Lyon on the FOX TV show Empire.

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

Empire tells the story of the musical family, The Lyons. After serving over a decade in prison to protect her aspiring rapper of a husband, Cookie is released to an empire that does not include her. The show takes viewers on a journey of the corrupt music industry, a family’s mission to protect their business at any cost, and Cookie’s journey to reclaim what’s hers personally and professionally.

With the final season of Empire currently airing, fans are anxious to see what Henson’s next move will be.

Taraji P. Henson on ‘Empire’

Taraji P. Henson has starred as Cookie Lyon, matriarch of the Lyon family dynasty, on Empire since the show’s premiere in the fall of 2015. The show was an instant hit but Henson proved to be the fan-favorite from the beginning.

Henson was praised for playing the role with wit, sass and conviction. The on-screen chemistry she shares with Terrance Howard, who plays her TV husband, Lucious, had viewers cheering them on as if they were a real couple. She was also applauded for the emotion she evoked from viewers playing the stern yet loving mother to the Lyon boys.

Cookie Lyon became so popular that her character ignited its own fan club. The “cookie monsters” were born and tuned in weekly to watch Henson in action. As much as she loves the character, she admitted in a 2017 interview with Variety that she has a love-hate relationship with Cookie. “I could not do this forever,” Henson expressed. “Cookie wears me out! She is emotionally all over the place. She drains me. I’ve got to get as far away from Cookie as possible.”

Taraji P. Henson on ‘Empire’ ending

After Henson’s Empire co-star’s Jussie Smollett scandal earlier this year, FOX announced that the series sixth season would be it’s last. The network promised a jaw-dropping finale season that would be sure to leave longtime fans pleased.

Cookie Lyon Lucious Lyon
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson, L) and Lucious (Terrence Howard, R) on EMPIRE | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

All of the stars were sad that the show was coming to an end but optimistic about its future. No one has had as much notoriety from the show as Henson and she is not only thankful for the platform the show has given her, but she also credits the show for jumpstarting the second phase of her career. 

In a September 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly ahead of the show’s season six premiere, Henson spoke on her love of the show and reflected on what it’s done for her professionally. “Cookie has meant so much to me,” she confessed. “She gave me a second life in this industry and made me a pop star in my 40s. Cookie was a movement. Long after I’m gone, people will be talking about Cookie.”

What will Taraji P. Henson do after ‘Empire?’

With Empire in its final season, fans are sad to see the show go but interested in seeing what its breakout star will do next. Henson admits that she will miss her Empire family but is looking forward to what’s to come. Henson has starred in several films that were released this year, including Best of Enemies. Outside of acting, she has a lot to look forward to in her personal life.

Henson became engaged to former NFL star, Kelvin Hayden, in the spring of 2018. The two are currently planning a wedding for 2020 that Henson promises will be star-studded with close friends and family.

Kelvin Hayden and Taraji P. Henson
Kelvin Hayden (L) and Taraji P. Henson 2019 | Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Grey Goose

She told Entertainment Tonight that their wedding will be in wine country where the two fell in love. “We both went to the wine country and it was our first time together at the same time,” she said. “He had never been, I had never been, and I did feel him fall in love.” 

Henson won’t have a bridal party, but celebrity friends like Mary J. Blige and Gabrielle Union are expected to be in attendance. At least Cookie Lyon fans have a real wedding to look forward to!