In a recent interview with Ellen Pompeo for Variety’s “Actors On Actors” series, Henson reveals Tyler Perry was the first studio head to pay her half a million dollar paycheck for a role.
“I think the industry knew I was talented. But it’s about money. Are you bankable? I had to continuously prove that. I’ve been trying to prove and improve. I was asking for half a million. I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person who paid me $500,000. I was never in a position where I could not take a job; by the grace of God, they have all been really good characters. But it was never a situation where I was like, “I’m not going to do that.” Now, I’m finally there.
It’s not going to change until privilege reaches across the table and helps. Otherwise, we’re playing a rerun. The only narrative that I wish I could change is my money. It’s almost like they want this incredible performance for a discount price. The black movies — we don’t get big budgets. I have to wait until Scorsese or someone with a franchise film calls.”
The 48-year-old also disclosed that she was making way less than her “Empire” co-star Terrence Howard when the show first became a hit. She said a fan reaction to her character helped her ask for more money on the table.
“But when all the tweets were about Cookie, I said, “It’s time to renegotiate. Can everybody sit down at the table, please?” I’d been in the game long enough to know the numbers game, and I knew Cookie had become iconic. You need her. So, I need my money.” She said.