Taraji P. Henson Explains Why Her Role On 'Empire' Is So Important

Just another reason to love Cookie Monster.

Taraji P. Henson knew her role as Cookie Lyon on "Empire" was special when she was casted. Not only because the character was lively, fierce and a soon-to-be a fan favorite, but also because she was a black leading lady on primetime television.   

"Growing up, it was rare for me to see a woman that looked like me that inspired me," Henson told PEOPLE. "So it was very important for me to portray Cookie. I didn't want to [screw] it up."

Cookie was Henson's first leading role in a primetime slot and she earned an Emmy nod for her acting in the show's first season.

The actress told PEOPLE that she wanted to make sure others could identify with Cookie.

Hollywood's diversity problem is still alive and well, but TV is certainly moving in the right direction with more and more black women playing powerful leading characters, including Viola Davis on "How to Get Away With Murder," Kerry Washington on "Scandal" and Jada Pinkett Smith on "Gotham."

Henson will be returning to TV screens when the second season of "Empire" premieres on Sept. 23.

Watch the trailer below:


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