Taraji P. Henson

The actor: The ebullient Taraji P. Henson caught Hollywood’s attention with her role in Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, in which she played Shug, a pregnant prostitute whose sweetness and purity wins over Terrence Howard’s pimp heart. That role led to an Oscar-nominated performance in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button as Brad Pitt’s sharp-tongued, unconditionally loving surrogate mother. Henson got her start with John Singleton’s Baby Boy, and will next appear in Date Night opposite Steve Carell and Tina Fey, and the Karate Kid remake opening this June. While getting settled into her new L.A. home, Henson recently spoke to The A.V. Club about her rising career.

Date Night (2010)—“Detective Arroyo”

Taraji P. Henson: That was fun, but it was hard, because here I am working with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, and they are comedians, so every take is different. I blew a lot of takes because I would laugh, but I didn’t feel bad, because so did [director] Shawn Levy. Any human, how can you keep a straight face? Every time they would do it differently, and they’re quick-witted. It was great working with them. They’re incredible.

The A.V. Club: They were improvising a lot?

TPH: Oh my God, yes. You just never knew. It’s like “Pow-pow-pow.” “Come on!”

AVC: B.J. Novak said that on the set of The Office, about 95 percent of their tape is wasted on laughter, because nobody can keep a straight face with Steve Carell. 

TPH: Yeah, it’s hard to keep a straight face with their improvising. You could just never get used to what they were going to say or do. And they’re both physical comedians too, so then there’s that.

The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)—“Left-Wing Student”

TPH: When I saw the final edit, the final product, all you saw was the back of my Afro. So they pretty much cut me out. [Laughs.] I’m just missing in that film, really. They still have to pay me residuals or whatever, but you really practically saw the back of the Afro. I was supposed to be like Angela Davis. 

AVC: Did you at least get to revel in the experience of being on the set of a big movie for the first time? 

TPH: Oh, absolutely! My favorite was the audition. I was nervous. I had a wrap on my head, because I had to be like a rebel, so I had my hair wrapped up, and I just remember snatching the wrap off and throwing it down on the table, and they were like “Oooh!” so I knew I had the job. So I called my mother and I was like, “Mama, I’m booked!” Because everything at that point was exciting. Everything at that time in my career was exciting. Anytime I had a little article—I mean, the article could be an inch, or the picture could be as big as my fingertip, and I would call my mother and be like, “You have to find In Style magazine, page 144!” Now, it’s crazy because I can’t even keep up with all of it. My mom gets mad when she calls me, because she’ll be like, “Yeah, you told me.”

Anyway, I was just so excited. Jason Alexander! Are you kidding me? When I started booking things like that, I was like, “I’m on the right path. I’m on the right path.”

AVC: How long were you there? Did you get to interact with the cast?

TPH: I was there maybe one day. Wasn’t a big role. At that point, it was still just another job. But it was great to be on a set that big. I had never been on a set that was that expensive, with that many extras. That was a great experience. 

Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (2001)—“Bess Pinckney”

TPH: Oh yeah! I was over the moon about that one. And so was my family. They were like, “Oh my God, you’re gonna meet Angela Lansbury!” I was so excited. And you know what was ironic about me booking that? At the time, I was actually doing a play here called Darker Faces, where I had to play a slave, so I guess it was easy for me to walk right into that audition and get it, because I had already been doing it. Reuben Cannon, the casting director, I remember when I went into my audition… A casting director can be pretty dry. They’re not actors. You’re reading with them, and they’re reading the lines like “Blahbitty blah blah.” But Reuben Cannon actually got down on the floor with me, and he played like he was dying. He produces all of Tyler Perry’s movies now. He used to be one of the top casting directors in Hollywood back in the day, but he’s moved on to producing, and he’s a millionaire now with Tyler Perry. But anyway, Angela Lansbury was the sweetest, the most… She’s the stuff of what legends are. What icons are. She was graceful. She was welcoming. She had me come in her trailer and we sat down and talked. I looked up to her. She’s such a great example of what I want to be. How I want to be known, and how I want to carry myself in this industry. She was a queen. She was beautiful. I’m so honored that I had that experience.

Baby Boy (2001)—“Yvette”

TPH: Well the one that’s a favorite would have to be Baby Boy, because that was my very, very first feature film, and I was the female lead—and she was raw. And then I had to be nude. It was a lot for the first movie. It was a lot. But it was beautiful… it was Tyrese [Gibson]’s first time too, so you know, we had a special bond because of it. We walked that journey together. We were both like virgins. That was our first time being exposed and raw to the world. And that was his first feature too. And then John [Singleton] was there guiding us through the whole thing. That was a very family-oriented set. You know, Ving Rhames, the best, and A.J. Johnson, the best. And Mo’Nique was actually in that too. And look at her now!

AVC: You appeared on her show recently. It was a great clip, that undelivered Oscar speech.

TPH: [Laughs.] Well, I’ll tell you, I love to talk and have fun. But yeah, Baby Boy was a great experience, because that movie actually led to Hustle & Flow because of my relationship with John Singleton. 

AVC: What is it like to work with John Singleton?

TPH: John is the man, because John and I have a brother/sister camaraderie. I call him for personal stuff. He’s like my—I can—because we’re on that level, we work very well together, because we know how to communicate without communicating. Because there’s another level of a friendship there, so I know what he wants. I know exactly what he’s going for. So it’s not a bunch of talking.

AVC: So that relationship was built from working on Baby Boy? You hadn’t previously known him?

TPH: Absolutely. That was from working with him on Baby Boy. That’s being his friend outside the industry and knowing him, the man. There’s so many other things that helped. I know how he thinks. I hear him talk about other scripts or other projects so I know him on a personal level so that when it’s business, when it’s time to go to work, I know him creatively. I pretty much know, especially if he wrote the script, I’m like, “Okay, I know exactly what you want.” 

The Division (2003-2004)—“Inspector Raina Washington”

TPH: After Baby Boy, I pretty much just started doing movies. Well, I take that back—after Baby Boy, I moved onto a television series on Lifetime called The Division with Nancy McKeon, Bonnie Bedelia, Lisa Vidal, and Jon Hamm! Jon Hamm and I got our start together on that television show. We were the two new additions to the cast. And look at us now! 

AVC: How did that role come about?

TPH: Well that was just an audition. I went in to audition, and I kept going back in, and finally I go in to test. And I remember, it was the studio. They’re predominantly white and like accountants in suits, and not the Baby Boy audience, you know what I mean? So I’m in there and I’m about to do my scene, and one of the producers, Aaron Lipstadt, he raises his hand and he goes, “I just want to tell you, I loved you in Baby Boy.” And I was like, “Huh?” Because I didn’t expect them to know me from that. And I was like, “Oh my God,” so that gave me extra pep in my step in the audition. And finally it got down to it and they picked me, and I remember seeing Jon Hamm when we went to network. You go to studio and then you go to network, because that’s the last stage of auditioning before they say who they’re going to give the job to. And my car broke down that day. I was like, “This has to be my job, God, you wouldn’t do this to me. You wouldn’t have my car break down and not get the job.” So I had to cab it there, and I remember Jon Hamm when we were signing in and I was all crazy and flustered and like, [Adopts quivering voice.] “My car broke down!” And he was like, “Calm down, calm down.” And then we booked the job together. I’m just, I’m so proud of him, that’s why I’m gushing.

AVC: So at the time you were doing the TV show, you were also doing features. Was the TV show just an “I want a job” kind of thing, or did you want to do TV?

TPH: You know, when I first started, I just wanted to work. I’m a creative person, so I have to stay busy. Even if I wasn’t on TV or in a film, I was in theater. I was always somewhere working it out. I have to. I gotta get it out. And so when I first did TV, I was excited, but I knew I always wanted to do features, because I like to be different characters. With TV, you get on a show and you’re there for 11 years playing the same character. I would pull my hair out. Yes, the money is good. But I’m really not in this business to chase dollars. Yes, I want to get paid, but I want to do it joyfully. I don’t wanna wake up every day and know that I have to go to work because the money is good. I wanna go because “Oh my God, I can’t wait to play this character!” That thing. That’s why I lean more toward features. But will I ever do TV? Absolutely. Actually, I’m not excited about an hour drama, but I wouldn’t mind doing like a sitcom.

AVC: You were saying you don’t want to be tied down to a character. So you’re always looking for variety from work?

TPH: Absolutely. That’s the first thing I do, is look at the character and ask, “Have I done this before? Does this feel familiar?” I don’t want to duplicate the same roles. I like different things. I’m a character actor. 

Hair Show (2004)—“Tiffany”

TPH: Yeah, that was a small movie we did after Baby Boy, chronologically. And that’s when I was on the television show on Lifetime. It was the summertime. And did I need to work? No. I was getting paid off the television show. I was just on hiatus. So I said… It was a chance for me to be funny, and I said “I want to do it.” Why not? I love Mo’Nique. And you’re talking about going to work every day having fun and laughing. That was the best summer.

AVC: When did your friendship with Mo’Nique start? Had you known her before Baby Boy?

TPH: We got to know each other very well on Hair Show. And we’ve been friends ever since. 

Hustle & Flow (2005)—“Shug”

TPH: That was an amazing experience. It was a labor of love. Baby Boy people were getting paid; this one was a labor of love. Like everyone from the microphone guy to craft services to wardrobe, hair, and makeup. All the actors, producers. Everybody was there because they believed in that project. And we were down in the South in Memphis, with all that Southern hospitality surrounding us. The city was good to us. The people were good to us. That was an amazing, an amazing, an amazing experience.

AVC: How did you get the role of Shug?

TPH: Because Stephanie Elaine, she produced John’s Boyz N The Hood, so she and John Singleton already had a friendship and a partnership. And then she found Craig Brewer, the director and writer of Hustle & Flow, and took him and the script to John Singleton, and when he got that script, he called me and was like, “I got this script. It’s incredible. Read it. I need your eyes for Shug.” That’s what he kept saying. And I read the script and fell in love with it. And then there was a possibility that I couldn’t do that movie. If they could have gotten money for it, they would have gone sooner rather than later, and it would have been a direct conflict with The Division. I would have slit my wrists. I don’t know what I would have done. [Laughs.] I just knew I had to do it! You read a script like that. I remember calling John and Craig and being like, “Please, can I do it on the weekend? I’ll fly out Fridays. Please! Please!” And as fate would have it, they could not get the money, so they went later. Thank God! Because that movie led to Benjamin Button! Those were the three pivotals. The three big turning points in my career, thus far. So all that stuff in between, it helps.

AVC: How did you prepare for Shug and get into her character?

TPH: Well what I had to do, because I didn’t want to play a stereotype, because it’s a fine line when you play a prostitute or a girl from the hood. You don’t want to make them a stereotype, you want to make them as real as possible. And there’s always a reason why a person is who they are. That’s my job as the actor. So I just did backstory on what could have happened to her to land her in this moment in life. So, low self-esteem. I just started writing and making up stuff about her. And Craig always referred to her as the sweetness, the heart. And I also just based it off her name, Shug, which is short for sugar—so pure and so sweet. I also wanted the audience to want to rescue her and see her as just a diamond in the rough. Like if I just got her and cleaned her up. So I started doing research from the prostitute’s perspective. Like, why were they doing what they were doing? And I started getting into whether she was molested. Did she have a father or a mother? Does she live on her own on the street, and how did she meet [Terrence Howard’s] DJ? Could she sing? Was that something she didn’t even know she had? So just doing that. I wrote and wrote until I couldn’t write anymore.

AVC: That’s just the thing about her character. You see her and you think, “This doesn’t fit. What is she doing in this life she has?” Did the script give you anything we didn’t see on film, or was it mostly what you made up yourself?

TPH: A lot is in the script. I read my scripts even when I’m in production, because every day you read, you’re in a different place. You’re in a different headspace. So maybe two days ago, I didn’t see that maybe there is a throughline where maybe she can sing and she didn’t hide it, because she just didn’t know. There was a scene he wrote where she is humming to the baby. So I thought “Well, maybe that’s something she has deep down inside of her, but because she has such low self-esteem, she hasn’t even tapped into it to know, because she has no hope.” So I started thinking “Well, where did the no hope come from?” So she was molested as a child. And her perception of love is askew because of her having that taken away from her at such a young age. And she really doesn’t think what she does is bad, because what she feels when she does it is like she’s loving a person. Like she gives you all of her. It’s just unfortunate that the scum she’s giving herself to couldn’t give a shit. But in her head, it’s coming from a place of love. It wasn’t “I’m a ho, and I’m gonna have to mess on you, and give me my money.” [Laughs.] It was coming from a very innocent place. 

AVC: You showcased your vocal talents in Hustle & Flow and I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Do you have any aspirations with that?

TPH: Singing is something I can do, but it’s not my first passion. If the role requires it, I’ll do it, but I’m not really trying to get into the studio and make an album. But never say never. If the right project comes along, then I’ll do it. But I’m just not really interested in disposable music. Stuff that people can’t remember. And that tends to be the norm nowadays. 

AVC: You did get to perform at the Oscars with Three Six Mafia. What was that like?

TPH: Oh, it was just incredible. But it was bittersweet, because two weeks before that, my father passed away. I kinda had to compartmentalize that and get through that. It was tough, but I got through it because he would have wanted me to. 

AVC: Three Six Mafia was the first hip-hop group to perform at the ceremony. What was it like to perform with them in front of that audience?

TPH: I had to look above their heads. Because I’m singing about how hard it is for a pimp, and there’s Helen Mirren and Tom Hanks, so it was kinda like, “Can I sing something else, please?”

AVC: The FCC required the word “bitches” to be replaced with “witches.” Did you feel that the change altered the intentions of the song at all?

TPH: It didn’t, it didn’t, because it really still sounded like I was saying “bitches.” And I might have slipped a couple times. Nobody caught it. Oh well. [Laughs.]

AVC: An odd thing I learned from a Russian friend is that Russia doesn’t have an exact translation for the words “hustle and flow,” so the translation of the film title in Russia comes out as “the fuss and the torrent,” or “fuss and motion.” How would you explain the proper cultural context of the words “hustle and flow?”

TPH: I wouldn’t even know where to begin. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I think that one would be where I pass the mic. That’s like, “Take it away, John, you explain.” You know who would be good? Terrence [Howard] would have a good one for that. He has an answer for everything. 

Four Brothers (2005)—“Camille Mercer”

TPH: I basically called John and told him he better give me that job, because it was Christmas and I needed it. He was like, “But it’s a small role.” I was like, “Bullshit. There’s no such thing as a small role. Give it to me. I want it.” And now they’re writing the sequel, and they wrote my role to be bigger. So I’m a smart cookie. I’m very smart. You know that’s a movie where they will do a sequel.

AVC: Do you know when that starts filming?

TPH: They’re still writing the script, but the writer, David Elliot, keeps me informed. He’s like, “It’s coming along, your story, and Andre 3000’s story is brilliant, and everybody loves it.” So it’s not even—they gotta get the script completed first.

Smokin’ Aces (2006)—“Sharice Watters”

TPH: That was so much fun. She had a potty mouth and she toted a gun. That was a chance for me to show that I could be a badass. I could hold a gun. What girl doesn’t want to do that? And Alicia and I were the only girls on the set. It was a lot of fun. Especially as we filmed most of it in Lake Tahoe. And I got up there and had no idea of the altitude. So you know, we went out one night and we went to this restaurant on the top, top floor, the 30th floor of this hotel, and I had one drink. No, no, I didn’t even finish the drink. And I was so—I was like, “Somebody put something in my drink!” My equilibrium was off, I knocked the drink over. I was like, “Please walk with me!” And then they explained the whole above-sea-level thing, and I was like, “Oh God.” I was just a mess. It takes some time to get used to it. 

AVC: You had to do training before the film? What did that involve?

TPH: Oh yeah. We had to do weapons training with an actual sniper that I think is still enlisted in the army. Because I remember at one point he had to leave and go back to Iraq. So they got the best to train us. 

Talk To Me (2007)—“Vernell Watson”

TPH: That’s like my favorite movie. You know, working with Don Cheadle. That’s like a dream come true. And I am a child of the ’70s, and to get to wear those Afros and outfits…. I’ve always adored Pam Grier, so I got a chance to do that in my career? Are you kidding me? And to be funny and vulnerable and loud and crazy? It was great.

AVC: How did you come by the role?

TPH: Talk To Me is interesting, because Terrence called me with that script after we filmed Hustle & Flow. He was like, “Oh my God, you have to read this thing. This script is yours if you want it,” because he was attached. So I got that. But then he fell off and I had to audition for it. Which was fine. But I was like, “Wait a minute, Terrence said this was mine!” [Laughs.]

AVC: Has auditioning stopped at all? Are you a fan of auditions?

TPH: No. I’m glad I don’t have to do them anymore, really. 

AVC: Some actors enjoy auditions because it makes them feel like they’ve really earned a role.

TPH: Yeah, but it gets to a point where it’s like, “How much do I really need to prove myself? You can just go to Blockbuster and rent five movies to see that I can do this. You’re really gonna make me audition for this? Okay.” You just expect at a certain point in your career, obviously you really shouldn’t have to. But there are some roles where they’re like, “We really don’t know if you can do that,” and it’s like, “Okay, I’ve done this, this, this, this and this, so come on, this is just another role.”

AVC: Was Talk To Me the last time you had to audition?

TPH: I was still kind of on the auditioning path, because right after I booked that, I had to go in and audition for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. But after Benjamin Button and the Oscar nomination, everything after that, I haven’t had to audition for. They’ve all just been straight offers. 

Boston Legal (2007-2008)—“Whitney Rome”

TPH: The producers had seen Hustle & Flow, and they had been trying to get me since then, but I had been busy working, doing different films. So they just called at the right time, and I didn’t have anything going on, so I took it. You don’t say no to David E. Kelley. 

AVC: How was it fitting in with the cast?

TPH: I don’t think I’ve been more starstruck in my life. Come on, you’ve got William Shatner? Get the fuck out of there. Every day I’m going to work with Candice Bergen? And then sometimes I would forget that I was working and I would just watch them, because they’re so great at what they do. I learned a lot. We spoke and talked a lot, but it was kind of difficult because it was such a cast that we all worked different times, so it was very rare that we were all on the set at the same time. With different storylines, it wasn’t that kind of show where we got to see each other every day.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)—“Queenie”

TPH: You’re talking big superstars, and they’re very graceful, humble, welcoming and warm. And just the way they cradled me throughout the whole process. You know, Brad and—Angie!—and Cate and Tilda. They were just so proud and happy for me. I even remember when I met Cate for the first time in the makeup trailer and we were talking about Notes On A Scandal, and we just talked, and I told her how much I loved her in that, and how difficult that must be, to be the mother of sons and having to kiss that little boy on the set, and she’d go “Ugh.” And I told her, “You played it so that I didn’t hate you. I felt for your character. That’s a thin line to walk, and you were right in the pocket.” And after I finished, she looked at me, because we did my scene the first time I was in the old makeup, and she grabbed my hand and said to me, “I want you to know that you’re absolutely brilliant. I just love Queenie. I love Queenie.” And so Cate Blanchett’s mouth is moving, and after a while I go numb and it gets a dark blank and I just can’t even believe she’s saying this to me. 

AVC: That was your first time with those sorts of special effects. What was that makeup process like?

TPH: It was so tedious. I’ve had several moments in life where I want to punch whoever says what we do is glamorous. When I have early calls in the morning and I have to get up at 3 o’clock—that’s how it was for Benjamin Button—because I would have to be in the chair by 4 a.m. to start my three-hour process of makeup so that I can be ready to shoot at 7. Okay? You get that, right? 3 a.m. Getting up. And then having to go to work after you sit through all of that. Now you gotta go to work for 18 hours.

AVC: When were you sleeping?

TPH: Yeahhh. So that’s what that felt like. There were times where I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Especially when they started getting around to applying the bags under the eyes, because that’s very sensitive, and it’s your eye. Most times when they started painting and initially starting to apply stuff, I would just be sweet. But then when there was a point where I had to hold my eyes open—oh, it was terrible. There would be some days or nights or mornings or whatever—I didn’t know if I was coming or going—I would be like “You’re gonna have to get kickstands. I need eyelid kickstands.” 

AVC: What other differences were there between doing smaller films and then doing this big blockbuster film?

TPH: You don’t rush. There’s no rushing. There were times when David Fincher would say, “I want to do this all over again,” then we would do it all over again. There was no rushing the process. It was very calm. There were tense moments when you gotta try to hurry up to get the day in, but you would have a whole day to shoot one scene. You would get time to let the moments breathe. There’s no, “Goddammit, hurry up, we’re losing light.” Of course we had those moments, but Hustle & Flow and “Hurry up, because we’re losing light and we don’t have no money” is different from “Hurry up, we’re losing light because we just don’t want to do it tomorrow.” [Laughs.]

AVC: What is David Fincher like as a director?

TPH: Fincher? I love Fincher, because he is the type of personality where he either likes you or he doesn’t. There’s really no in between. So I can only imagine trying to guide that ship, if you will. There’s so much on his brain that he’s not only directing the humans, he’s also thinking about the post-production when you get into the CGI. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of balls to juggle. So he really appreciated people coming to set prepared, ready, “Pow, let’s hit it.” And that’s how I work. I show up ready to work. You knock on my door one time, I’m on the set. I’m ready. There’s no drama. There’s no diva. I’m there for the team. And we identified with each other on that right away. And even the crew would be happy when I showed up. They’d be like, “Oh my God, Taraji’s here. You just make him so calm.” It’s like, “Really? What am I doing?” But I think it’s because he’s such a passionate guy. He’s such an artist, right down to the core. And that’s like really what I am too. I think we tapped into that in each other. That’s when he and Brad get into it, and Cate. Not to say I was the only one. I’m pretty sure he was happy when they showed up, too, but I just felt a little special [Laughs.] because it was my first time working with him.

AVC: As a mother, did you identify with Queenie?

TPH: Did I identify? Once a mother, always a mother. I’m Ma, that’s just what it is. Anything that goes with mothering, I can do. Like my son, he’ll be 16 in May, he’ll go out and I’ll call him, because he’ll forever be my baby. Even though I’ve never mothered a grown man. But Benjamin Button was aging backward, so he was still my child, whether he looked old or young or whatever. 

I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009)—“April”

TPH: That was amazing, because that was the very first call I got after the Oscars. And it was a lead to carry my own film. I was just like, “Yes! This is right where I need to be.” Because a lot of my fans are like, “I just wish you were in the movie more. I wish this more. I wish that more.”

AVC: A lead role is what you’re working for.

TPH: Exactly. Well, it’s not any other reasons other than, “I can.” It’s not that I want to be a major superstar. I just really like what I do, and the more I can do it, the better. That’s all. That’s where it’s coming from for me. I don’t want paparazzi chasing me everywhere. I don’t want that stuff that comes with that. I just like to work. 

Hurricane Season (2009)—“Dayna Collins”

TPH: Forest Whitaker. I would do anything to work with him. We filmed it in New Orleans. It was bittersweet, because here we are bringing so much revenue into the city and people have jobs now because of us, but at the same time, so many people missing, and so many people are still doing so bad. So yes, we’re coming with this good stuff, but there’s still so much other stuff. It was just bittersweet. And then because of what the movie was about, the actual hurricane. It was tough, but it was good, too, if I can be bipolar. [Laughs.]

The Karate Kid (2010)—“Mom”

TPH: Yeah, I’m excited about that. That’s the big woohoo. That was so incredible, working with that little kid [Jaden Smith]. That kid is a superstar. And he has the charm, the charisma. He just has it all. Jaden is incredible. He’s an amazing child. So well-mannered. They’ve just done so good with him.

AVC: So was that another role that was offered?

TPH: Yeah, they just called. They said they were interested in me for that role. It’s funny, because I thought someone else was being considered, and then there was never anybody else being considered. They always just wanted me. Because I was on the phone with my manager screaming at him, “You better make it happen!” and it was happening.

AVC: So you got to film in China?

TPH: Yeah, we were in Beijing for three months. It was great. It was absolutely great. Actually, a friend of mine I met in Beijing is here visiting me right this moment. Yeah, my friend I met is one of the top pastry chefs in Beijing, and he was helping to get Cordon Bleu started and up on its feet, and he just happened to be in L.A., and he’s here at the house to say “Hey,” so that’s interesting that I’m talking about Karate Kid and Beijing and he’s here. I haven’t seen him since we left Beijing.

Peep World (2010)—“Mary”

TPH: It’s an independent film with Michael C. Hall. Barry Blaustein directed it. He wrote all the Eddie Murphy hits. It’s a quirky film, an independent film about this guy whose wife feels like he’s cheating on her because he goes to this place called Peep World, an X-rated place, for a peep show. But it’s also Peep World because you’re looking into his life with his family and the relationship he has with his dad, and you get to know him even further through his siblings. Rainn Wilson plays my love interest. He’s one of the brothers, like the slouch of a brother, but he’s the one with the most heart and the biggest balls, if you will. But he doesn’t have the best job or he’s not very good with his money. But he’s the best sibling. Then you have Sarah Silverman, she plays one of the siblings. It’s a really good film. I can’t wait for that one.

The Good Doctor (2010)—“Nurse Theresa”

AVC: You’re in that with Orlando Bloom.

TPH: I just finished that. Oh God, is he yummy. He’s a sweetie-pie. He. Is. A. Sweetie. Pie. And I felt bad because my character really didn’t like him. So I would be really stern and mean with him and down to business, and then they’d yell “Cut!” and we’d be yack-yack-yack-yack. But I was horrible to him.

AVC: What drew you to it?

TPH: The script and Lance Daly. I saw his other film, Kisses, and I just knew I wanted to work with him as a director. And of course Orlando Bloom. And the producers wrote me the most endearing love letter, basically, asking me to be in the movie. It was actually a love letter.

Larry Crowne (2011)—Undisclosed Role

TPH: I actually just finished a table-read yesterday for my next project, Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks, and he’s directing, and Julia Roberts, and a bunch of other people. But I play Cedric The Entertainer’s wife. Again, that was a call. I’m like, “Keep the calls coming. Keep the calls coming. Come on, somebody else call. I’m waiting for youuuu, Steven Spielberg.” I’m getting close, I’m getting close to Steven. I got Tom. Not bad, huh?

AVC: So you start on that soon?

TPH: Yeah, I start on that April 21.

AVC: Tom Hanks talks about the production on Twitter. I think I even read about the table-read yesterday.

TPH: I didn’t even know Tom Hanks is on Twitter! I’m gonna follow him. He probably follows me. You know, there are a lot of people that follow you and you never know that they’re following you. That’s what’s kinda creepy about it, because it’s like, “Who’s watching me?” I think I’m at 129,000 followers now, but they’re not all talking to me every day. But I kinda forget about it. Twitter’s not my life. I figure they’ll find out sooner or later. It changes when a movie comes out, and the more I do stuff, the more interviews I do. They always ask, “Are you on Twitter?” 

AVC: Well we’re publicizing it here, so maybe you’ll get some more followers after this.

TPH: Exactly. But I have a life. Not every five minutes. But what’s cool about it is, it’s actually a chance for my fans to really, really get to know me. Because that’s not like an assistant answering for me; that is me. 

AVC: That’s the advantage for celebrities on Twitter, that they can talk to their fans themselves. And it’s great that they’re willing to put themselves out there.

TPH: Yes. Well some do. Others are on there and they’re just like, “Watch me on this and watch me on that,” but I’m really known for reaching out and talking to people. I think a lot of people appreciate when you’re personal with them. And in my opinion, why have a Twitter account if you’re not going to be?

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