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Taraji P Henson on Talk to Me

Published July 12, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Focus Features.
Talk to Me Talk to Me

Petey Greene was a loud, outspoken shocker, so he only rolled with chicks who could keep up. His ladies are embodied in the film Talk to Me in a composite character, Vernell Watson (Taraji P. Henson). Even though Vernell was not herself a real person, she was a complete character for Henson.

Don Cheadle Talks Talk to Me

"She was well written, number one, so I really didn't have to do a lot of soul searching to find her," said Henson. "What I had to do was research that era, that time. People were very different then. People weren't afraid to live out loud and speak their minds. If the president was wrong, they would call him on it. If they wanted the soldiers home, guess what? Soldiers are coming home because we're going to burn something down, we're going to march, we're going to wake up the world. So it was a certain mindset going in that I had to research and a certain style and tempo and rhythm in the way people spoke then, especially black people. It was very melodic. We're down with the get down, power to the people. That's more of the research that I had to do because Vernell was there in black and white."

Vernell wore attention-grabbing outfits, so Henson showed up for her audition looking like Vernell. "I always do. I had on this outfit. I'm such a packrat and I love fashion. This outfit that I was in a fashion show when I was in college and this guy made it. It was like these hot pants and funky color, like pink and bell sleeves. I had the chicken cutlets [falsies] and the boobs were pushed up with a big old padded bra and I walked in and they were like, 'Oh my God. There she is.'"

It may sound outrageous but it's necessary. "That's what you need to do in this industry because a lot of people don't have creative imaginations. It's all these suits making creative decisions which always baffles me. But I like to go in there because if you go in with a clean slate, they can't picture it. For me it helps me as an artist. It helps me get to her and perform the way I need to, so I kind of had to."

Now, Vernell has an afro, but Henson did not go that far in her audition. "I actually didn't do the fro because that scares people sometimes. I watched a lot of Pam Grier movies so I kind of reinvented one of her hairstyles that wasn't a fro."

She also did not walk around in public like that. "Well, because the shorts were hot pants, so I wore a skirt over the shorts and then when I got to the office I took the skirt off."

Though a fashion nut, Henson did not keep any of her Talk to Me outfits. "I didn't keep any of the polyester, no thank you, but I did keep some of the shoes. Yeah, done, because a lot of the stuff wasn't comfortable. It's polyester and it's 90 degrees out side sticking to you, doesn't breathe. No thank you."

Talk to Me has a limited release on July 13th.

For the trailer, poster, stills and additional info, go to the Talk to Me Movie Page.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Focus Features.

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