Taraji P. Henson on the future of acting career, pay disparity: ‘The math ain’t mathing’

In a SiriusXM interview, while promoting "The Color Purple," Henson opened up about falsehoods surrounding pay in Hollywood and her own struggles within the industry.

Taraji P. Henson opened up about her career in an interview with Gayle King on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy station, shedding light on pay structures and revealing whether or not she wants to continue an acting career amid constant hurdles.

Henson, alongside her co-stars Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks to name a few, is busy promoting “The Color Purple,” the brand new adaptation of the Broadway musical and beloved novel of the same name. In a recent interview, King asked Henson about a rumor the journalist heard about the “Empire” star considering “stopping” acting altogether.

SiriusXM's Town Hall With The Cast Of 'The Color Purple' Hosted By Gayle King
Taraji P. Henson takes part in SiriusXM’s Town Hall With The Cast Of ‘The Color Purple’ Hosted By Gayle King at SiriusXM Studios on Dec. 11, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM) Credit: Photo byCindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM

“I am just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do [and] getting paid a fraction of the cost. I am tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired,” Henson said while holding back tears.

“I hear people go, ‘You work a lot,'” she continued. “I have to. The math ain’t mathing. When you start working a lot, you know you have a team. Big bills come with what we do, we don’t do this alone … there’s a whole entire team behind us [and] they have to get paid.”

Henson broke down how Hollywood salaries could be perceived as a lot of money, but when broken down, many in the industry are left with a fraction of that amount. Using an example of $10 million, Henson explained that off the top, 50% goes to “Uncle Sam.” From there, the team gets 30% off of gross pay. “Now, do the math,” she continued.

“I am only human and it seems every time I do something and I break another glass ceiling, when it’s time to renegotiate I am at the bottom again like I never did what I just did, and I’m tired.”

“What does that mean? What is it telling me,” she added, before Brooks chimed in saying, “and what does it tell me?” Henson tearfully added, “And if I can’t fight for them coming up behind me then what the f–k am I doing, I’m sorry.”


King assured Henson that as hard as the topic is, it is an important “message” for people to hear.

Henson detailed certain excuses she has heard over the years. “And then they tell me we don’t translate overseas. I’m tired of hearing that my entire career … I see what you do for another production and when it’s time for us to go to bat you don’t have any money. They play in your face.”

Henson added that these reasons are why she has other brands and her mental health foundation. “I have other things because this industry if you let it … it will steal your soul. But I refuse to let that happen.”

This is not the first time Henson has opened up about pay disparity in Hollywood, specifically compared to her white counterparts, as theGrio previously reported. In 2021 she revealed that for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” a project that earned her an Oscar nomination, she only took home $40,000 while her white co-stars took home millions.

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