5 New Things We Learned From Taraji P. Henson's W Magazine Interview

Entertainment | Camille Travis | 06/23/2015 | 02:30 PM EDT

Taraji wanted the title role in 'Precious?' Get into the 'Empire' actress' latest interview

Taraji P. Henson is officially America's newest sweetheart, showing up on magazine covers and red carpets everywhere. And although it's been suggested that she slow down her press campaign (see last week's medical emergency), the nation just can't get enough of the woman who brought Cookie Lyon alive.

Henson's latest spread comes from W magazine in which she takes the cover of its August 2015 issue. Dressed in a simple white Theory henley and J Brand jeans, the 44-year-old actress oozes sex appeal from the inside out.

In the issue, Henson opens up about her journey through Hollywood, working as a single mother, her awkward experience at the Oscars, the massive success of "Empire" and more. The interview is full of fun facts about Henson's life and career that was news to us.

Check out a few excerpts below to see what we learned.

She wanted the title role in Precious.

"Daniels and Henson had met once before: She had auditioned for his award-winning 2009 film Precious, about a 350-pound black teenager who is HIV-positive and pregnant by her father for the second time. 'Lee wanted me for the thin, pretty teacher in Precious,' Henson told me in late spring, with her usual mix of confidence and enthusiasm. She was wearing a short blue romper that showed off her great legs and made her seem much younger than her age (44). 'And I was like, ‘Well, I want to play Precious—because that’s the role in this piece.’ Lee thought I was nuts. I was like, 'Look, they turned Charlize Theron into a monster! I could be this girl!’ When I think about that now, it was such a Cookie move.'"

"Empire" was not on her radar.

"'I was like, This is stupid,' recalled Henson, who had just left CBS’s successful Person of Interest and wanted to return to her first love, theater. 'Hip-hop—dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. But then I started to think, Cookie is going to piss so many people off! She hits her son with a broom; she talks back. Clearly, this was a challenge.'"

Her performance at the 78th annual Academy Awards was a somewhat embarrassing experience.

"At the Academy Awards, Henson performed the film’s Oscar winning song, 'It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.' 'I sang that in front of my peers,' Henson said. 'It was both amazing and embarrassing. But I think the song won for the same reason that people love Cookie. It was about coming from nothing, having goals, and going after them.' She paused. 'And it was extreme. People love extremes.'"

Henson is not worried about Cookie's detractors.

"Henson has attracted a lot of criticism, especially from the black community, which feels Cookie is not a proper role model. 'When I hear that Cookie is a bad representation of black women, I don’t get involved. Maybe Cookie makes you uncomfortable because she reminds you of yourself. People miss the bigger picture when they start judging.'"

Henson blew off her audition for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as no big deal.

"'I didn’t take it seriously,' Henson told me. 'I mean, they had Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt—why would they want me? I thought it was a runaround, and I decided to hold an epic garage sale that day instead. I had mannequins. I had glasses with wig heads. I had champagne ready. And then my agent called and said, 'Shut that garage door! [David Fincher] wants to see you.'"

Read Henson's entire interview here.

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(Photo: W Magazine, August 2015)

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