ByNell Minow, writer at

The breakout hit of the television season is the steamy, soapy, musical melodrama "Empire," and the breakout star (long overdue) is the fabulous Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon, just out of prison after 17 years and determined to get back everything she has lost or missed, including the recording company she founded with her now ex-husband Lucious, played by Terence Howard.

As the show concludes its season later this month, now is a good time to stock up on some of Henson's earlier work as we wait for "Empire's" second season.

Henson and Howard first worked together in Hustle & Flow. She was the one who insisted that he be added to the cast in "Empire" because she knew their chemistry was right for Cookie and Lucious.

Henson was nominated for an Oscar when she played the adoptive mother of Brad Pitt's character in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

One of my favorite Henson performances is in the underseen Talk to Me, based on the real-life story of Washington D.C. disc jockey Petey Green. Henson played his flamboyant wife, rocking a miniskirt and an enormous Afro.

She starred in I Can Do Bad All By Myself as a singer who has no interest in taking responsibility for the children left to her care.


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