Taraji P. Henson Reveals Why She Was Scared to Play ‘Empire’s’ Cookie Lyon (Video)

“I struggled with it because I was like, ‘Oh, my God. She is so ghetto.’ But then I was like, ‘But she’s so real. She speaks the truth,’” the actress tells TheWrap

Taraji P. Henson, who stars as the infamous Cookie Lyon opposite Terrence Howard‘s Lucious Lyon on Fox breakout hit “Empire,” joined the cast on the gold carpet this past weekend at The Grove in Los Angeles for a special live Q&A session and performance.

Henson spoke with TheWrap about why she thinks “Empire” and her character in particular has really resonated with millions of viewers.  She also revealed why she was initially afraid to take on the role of the bold and sassy Lyon matriarch.

“I was scared to death. I struggled with it because I was like, ‘Oh, my God. She is so ghetto.’ But then I was like, ‘But she’s so real. She speaks the truth,'” Henson told TheWrap.

As it turns out Cookie’s “truth” was rewarded this past Sunday when Henson became the first African-American woman to win Best Actress in a Drama Series at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards.

Cookie’s over-the-top antics, classic one-liners, epic catfight with Boo Boo Kitty (Grace Gealey), and of course that broom beatdown she gave to her son Hakeem played by Bryshere “Yazz the Greatest” Gray has minted Henson as fan-favorite on the hip-hop soap opera.

But apart from that “ghetto” fabulousness from Cookie that has spawned countless GIFs and memes, Henson said at the the core of the character she found a strong, respectable person that really moves her.

“Think about it: She sacrificed 17 years of her life [in prison] so that Lucious could build an empire, so their sons would never see poverty, you know? That’s huge. Who does that? I wouldn’t do it,” she said, laughing.

Watch TheWrap’s interview with Taraji P. Henson.