Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taraji P Henson has accrued critical acclaim for many of her movies including Talk To Me, Hustle & Flow, Four Brothers and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself. This year she was nominated for an Emmy for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries in Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story.
She is currently co-starring in the new JJ Abrams/Jonathan Nolan drama for CBS, Person of Interest. In it she portrays NYPD Detective Carter, who becomes aware of crimes that are being prevented outside of the police department, prompting her to investigate two mysterious men using sophisticated surveillance equipment, Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson), who apparently have information that the police are not privy to.
When I saw the pilot, your character reminded me of Lieutenant Gerard chasing Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Can you talk about what’s the appeal of signing onto this kind of role where it seems like you’re always going to be one or two steps behind?
I got the script, and I read it, and I had this feeling; I’ve only had this feeling twice in my career. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and that feeling of, ‘Wow. This is something special.’ I had it when I read Hustle & Flow and when I read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We read a lot of scripts, but I very rarely have that feeling. Then I get a call from Mr Jonathan Nolan. Basically, he was begging me [to do it]. (she laughs)
It was such a beautiful call because you work hard in this business, and when you have people that you look up to and whose work you admire call you personally and say, ‘I would love to work for you. I would love to write for you,’ that’s a no-brainer. Who else is knocking on my door and calling me saying, ‘I want to write for you.’ Writers of his caliber, of course it was a no-brainer for me. And JJ Abrams, you can’t go wrong with that, so here I am. I don’t mind playing two steps behind.
Could describe your character in your own words?
She served two tours in Iraq. There are police officers that can be quite cynical because if you see enough dead bodies in a day, you’ve got to laugh to keep from crying. She’s more of a caring police officer. Not that all police officers don’t care. But she won’t crack the joke. She gets a little more emotionally involved with some of the people that she interacts with.
And she’s chasing Reese, this guy in a suit, which she’s already identified him as an ex?army person of some sort. So she identifies with that, and that’s what drives her to find out who this guy is.
What are you doing right now in New York to stay in shape for this cop role?
I actually found this class here in New York when we filmed the pilot. It’s called Physique 57. It’s pretty intense, but it’s keeping me in shape, I would say.
Have you noticed when you’re strolling down the street in New York City these days that there are more surveillance cameras than there ever have been?
I certainly am. I didn’t know about this machine the government is building, but I get a little paranoid with the cameras on everything. You have the eye looking at you on the laptop and iPad, and that kinda freaks me out a little bit because people can hack into your accounts and get whatever they want.
I swear to you, one day I was in bed working on my laptop, and the indicating light that lets you know that the camera is activated was green, and I know I didn’t push it, so that freaked me out. And now I use my Post-its to cover up the little camera every time I’m on my iPad or my iPhone or your iPad or your iPhone, I will be like, ‘Can I cover this up, please?’