‘Empire’ star has North Carolina roots

Award-winning actress and star of Fox’s hit drama “Empire” Taraji P. Henson has fond memories of visiting North Carolina every summer.

The Washington D.C. native spent every summer in Scotland Neck and also regularly gets back to visit her aunt and uncle who live in Raleigh.

“I was here just here last weekend celebrating my grandmother’s 93rd birthday,” Henson said, following her keynote address at Women’s Empowerment at PNC Arena on Saturday.

Henson said she flies under the radar during her visits.

“I dress like the Unabomber,” Henson said.

Henson also has another North Carolina connection. She briefly attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College to study electrical engineering.

“I auditioned for the School for the Performing Arts in D.C. and I didn’t get accepted, so I thought I couldn’t act,” Henson said. “So I did what a girlfriend of mine, who was mathematically and scientifically inclined, did and I followed behind her.”

Despite trying her best and having tutors, Henson said she still failed.

“I knew deep down that wasn’t what I wanted to do, I just wanted to do something with my life because my mom would kill me,” Henson said. “I had go to college.”

Henson ended up going home to D.C. and studying drama at Howard University.

For anyone trying to achieve something in life, Henson said the key is to never give up.

“You have to go for it. You only get one life. Why second guess yourself,” she said, noting that all you need is a little faith. “Whisper it to yourself every day, say it out loud, ‘I can do this.’”

Empire returns to Fox next week with new episodes, so expect more of Cookie’s famous one-liners.

“Most of the saying come from my real life,” Henson said. “Sometimes the writers will come up with something clever, but a lot of the time it is me.”

Henson takes credit for the nickname “Boo Boo Kitty” and the “hair smelling like a goat’s (butt)” lines.

“I got another zinger coming for you stay tuned,” Henson teased.

She even surprises herself in some of the scenes.

“It’s like I’m in the moment and it flies out of my mouth,” Henson said.

And for fans concerned Henson might leave the popular show to expand her film career, Cookie isn’t going anywhere.

“I got bills. I ain’t going nowhere,” Henson said. “I’m going to be there until it’s over.”