Taraji Henson talks Jussie Smollett, depression, anxiety, and faith in God
Article By Hope Johnston // EEW Magazine // Mental Health
These are crazy times for the cast members of Fox’s hit show, “Empire,” ever since one of its stars, Jussie Smollett, filed a police report alleging a hate crime.
Taraji P. Henson, known for her role as Cookie Lyon on the series, says she keeps things together—despite public drama, as well as her battle with depression and anxiety—through therapy, and faith in God.
“We’ll never be the same,” the 48-year-old Academy Award-nominated actress told Variety, referencing the impact Smollett’s case has had on everyone connected to “Empire.”
“No one will ever be the same,” she said during her sit-down chat with the publication that named her one of its “Power of Women” nominees. Variety is recognizing Henson for the 2018 launch of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation—an organization aimed at getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental health in the black community.
As Henson’s foundation is flourishing, “Empire” ratings are tanking due to police saying Smollett staged an attack to promote his career. Though charges were dropped, Chicago officials have ordered him to pay more than $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.
Too bad for Henson and the rest of the cast, they, too, are paying a hefty price. Last week, the musical Hip-Hop drama reportedly pulled in its lowest ratings in history, proving “Empire” has been negatively affected by the scandal.
Henson told Variety she and everyone else is “forever changed, and it’s sad.”
Speaking of sadness, Henson was transparent with Variety about her personal battle with depression and crippling anxiety, and how therapy has been a huge help. “I talk to someone. I have a therapist that I speak to. That’s the only way I can get through it,” she said. “You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises, so that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments.”
Even in weakness, the What Men Want star leans on her therapist and her faith, believing all the while she has been chosen for this platform—no matter how intense the pressure and scrutiny.
“These are the cards that God dealt me, and for whatever reasons, He felt like he knew I could handle it,” she said. “God is never going to give you more than you can handle. Now, it’s just trying to keep my sanity”—something admittedly hard to do in an insane world.
Hard or not, the mental health advocate said, “You’ve just got to be strong because the devil wants you weak, and the devil wants to catch you in a vulnerable moment and make you believe things that aren’t true. I just stay strong. I know what side I’m on: I’m on faith’s side. I’ve got God.”