A Life-Affirming Character

Playing a compassionate caretaker in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taraji P. Henson says her character is the embodiment of God's unconditional love.

Taraji P. Henson has a long resume of TV and movie gigs, the most visible of which is Shug in Hustle and Flow and as Pam in Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys. But her breakthrough role might just be her upcoming turn in the epic drama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to be released Christmas Day.

Henson plays Queenie, a compassionate woman who takes in an abandoned, misshapen baby and chooses to love him when others turn away in horror. That baby turns out to be Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a child born as an old man who is aging backwards.  As caregiver of a large home for the elderly in New Orleans at the close of World War I, Queenie divides her time between shepherding her charges to their final journey and raising the castaway child. As an adult, Benjamin travels around the world and finds love—but his center, his home, is always with Queenie, his adopted mother.

A woman of faith, Queenie is best summed up by her line when she finds the child, who she believes will not live long, "He's still one of God's children," she says.

Henson, mother to a 14-year-old son and a former special education teacher, doesn't project the usual glossy Hollywood exterior. In a conversation with CT Movies, she is free and frank, talking with animation about her work, her father's death, and her view of life.

Queenie is one of the most life-affirming, positive characters we've seen onscreen for a long time. What drew you to this role?

Taraji P. Henson: That's what intrigued me most about Queenie, her ability to love unconditionally. I hope everyone has had the joy and the privilege to love in that way. When you love like that, race doesn't matter, disability, it all goes out the window. Because of that passion, that love, that throb, ...

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A Life-Affirming Character
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December 2008

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