Taraji P. Henson Says She Walked Away From ‘Empire’ Spinoff: ‘They Didn’t Get It Right’

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie on Empire. (Credit: Fox)

For anyone wondering what happened to the Empire spinoff that was widely reported in 2020, Taraji P. Henson is offering insight on what went wrong.

The untitled Fox spinoff was announced in July 2020, with plans for the show to focus on Henson’s character Cookie Lyon.

The project was part of a first-look deal between 20th Television and Henson’s TPH Entertainment. The series had been in development, with a showrunner and director named.

Then suddenly in December 2020, Fox announced it was not moving forward with the project.

So what happened?

In a recent interview at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Henson blamed her team.

“All they wanted was another Cookie show. I said, ‘I’ll do it, but it has to be right. She’s too beloved for y’all to f–k it up,'” the actress said in the Dec. 19 interview. “So, when they didn’t get it right, I was like, ‘Well, that’s it.’ Then they had nothing else.”

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Henson said she parted ways with her entire team after that, because they failed to capitalize on the success of Empire.

“Everybody had to f—king go. Where is my deal? Where’s my commercial? Cookie was at the top of the fashion game. Where is my endorsement? What did you have set up after this? That’s why you all haven’t seen me in so long. They had nothing set up,” she said.

The actress, who has been vocal in recent weeks about Black actresses being underpaid in Hollywood, said she stuck with her team for years out of loyalty, before she finally decided to find new representation.

“It took me years to get there though, because I did have a bit of Stockholm syndrome,” she said.

She then gave the audience of SAG-AFTRA actors a bit of advice, saying they should always look out for their own best interests.

“You are the prize. Don’t you ever forget that,” she said. “You are the talent. You are their check. They work for you! If they’re not, somebody else will do it.”

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Henson is currently co-starring in The Color Purple movie musical, alongside Fantasia Barrino as Celie, and Danielle Brooks as Sofia. Henson plays Shug Avery.

Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones produced the Warner Bros. film, which was directed by Blitz Bazawule.

The movie opened on Christmas Day, and topped the holiday box office with $18.1 million. That was the best Dec. 25 debut, since Sherlock Holmes opened with $24.6 million in 2009.

Listen to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview with Taraji P. Henson below, at the 1:01:05 mark.