Why Miss Hannigan From Annie Live! Looks So Familiar
The sun came out yet again when “Annie Live!” aired on December 2 on NBC. A live production of the hit musical “Annie,” the show focuses on a young orphan (played by Celina Smith) and her search to find her parents after being adopted by a rich man. The Tony-winning musical has been adapted and reimagined numerous times over the years, and its most recent incarnation is one of the most fun and imaginative to date, bringing in a number of beloved actors to take on equally beloved roles.
Miss Hannigan probably looks familiar to many audience members who tune in to see “Annie Live!” during its recent NBC broadcast. That’s because she is portrayed by Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson, who has no shortage of impressive IMDb credits throughout her long career in Hollywood. With that in mind, and with “Annie Live!” at the forefront of the pop culture discussion, let’s take a look at some of the key roles fans of Taraji P. Henson may know her from.
She was an assassin in Smokin' Aces
One of the earliest notable silver screen roles for Taraji P. Henson was her performance as Sharice Watters in Joe Carnahan’s 2006 thriller, “Smokin’ Aces.” In the film, Watters is one half of an assassin duo (the other portrayed by Alicia Keys) who descends on a hotel to assassinate Las Vegas entertainer turned FBI informant Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven). However, things turn chaotic when several other assassins show up to collect Israel’s heart –- resulting in a battle for the bounty on his head.
Unfortunately, Watters ends up as one of the unlucky assassins in the film. At one point during the race to kill Israel, she thinks her partner (for whom she secretly harbors feelings) has been killed in the crossfire. As a result, she opens fire on the FBI agents protecting Israel with a massive fifty-caliber sniper rifle, leading to one of the film’s most explosive action sequences, as well as the character’s demise when police descend on her location. Though “Smokin’ Aces” ultimately proved unsuccessful at the box office, it has developed a cult following and serves as an example of Carnahan’s strong action chops.
She earned an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Following her violent and intense turn in “Smokin’ Aces,” Taraji P. Henson showed off a much gentler side in some of her subsequent roles. That is perhaps no clearer than her role as Queenie in David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which premiered in 2008. Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story of the same name, the film follows a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) who is born with the traits of an old man but gradually grows physically younger as he ages. In the film, Henson plays Queenie -– a woman who adopts Benjamin as her own when his parents throw him away at birth due to his perceived deformity.
Taraji P. Henson gave the word a number of critically acclaimed performances throughout her career. That said, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” arguably is her biggest silver screen role to date because of the critical praise and awards consideration she received. To date, her role as Queenie in David Fincher’s romantic epic remains her one and only Academy Award nomination. However, considering her output in recent years, there is still time for her to change that.
She played a ruthless record producer on Empire
In 2015, Taraji P. Henson joined Terence Howard as the co-lead of “Empire,” a Fox drama about a music producer struggling to hold onto his business. In the series, Henson portrayed Loretha “Cookie” Lyon, the wife of Howard’s Lucious Lyon and a cunning criminal turned record producer in her own right. For her role as Cookie in the Fox series, Henson not only received a Golden Globe, but she also is in consideration for a spinoff focusing solely on her character. Fox passed on the spinoff in 2022, but according to a report from Deadline, it is being shopped around to other platforms.
Though Henson has achieved critical acclaim and awards consideration for other roles throughout her career, there’s a case to be made that her performance as Cookie Lyon on “Empire” is currently the defining role of her filmography. The role arguably played to all of Henson’s strengths as an actress, and catapulted her from character actor status to a full-blown Hollywood leading lady. Cookie may be gone, but the impression that she left on audiences remains.
She helped get John Glenn into outer space
2016’s “Hidden Figures” told the story of the “human computers” that played an integral role during the early days of the space program, and specifically focused on three African American women who overcame barriers to make themselves part of the program. In the film, Taraji P. Henson portrayed real-life human computer Katherine Johnson, one of the three women who helped put John Glenn (played by Glenn Powell in the film) into space. The other two women, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, were respectively portrayed by Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae.
The ending of “Hidden Figures” reveals the story beyond what was shown in the movie. Johnson assisted with the Apollo 11 launch that put a man on the moon and was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Katherine Johnson died in February 2020 at the age of 101. Following her passing, Henson took to Instagram to honor the late Johnson’s legacy and remind the world of the excellent work she did during her career.
She could hear the thoughts of men in What Men Want
In 2019, Taraji P. Henson stepped into the lead role of high-powered sports agent Ali Davis for “What Men Want” under the direction of Adam Shankman. Based on the Mel Gibson 2000 comedy “What Women Want,” the film took the basic premise of its predecessor (what if a chauvinistic man could hear the thoughts of women?) and turned it on its head. This time, Henson’s Davis is mysteriously gifted the ability to listen to the thoughts of all of the men around her, and she utilizes that power to her advantage in her personal and professional lives.
“What Men Want” was not quite as successful as the film that inspired it. Globally, the film earned $72 million at the box office against a $20 million budget and garnered mixed reviews from critics. That said, despite mixed reviews for the film itself, many critics praised Henson for her work in the movie and specifically called out how game she was for the overall comedic premise. Though nothing has been confirmed at this time, there has been talk of potential sequels to continue the overall story, though it is unclear what that would look like at this time.
She played the murderous Bride in Muppets Haunted Mansion
One of the most recent on-screen appearances by Taraji P. Henson was her role as The Bride in the Disney+ Halloween special “Muppets Haunted Mansion.” The film focuses on Pepe the King Prawn and Gonzo The Great as they head to the titular Haunted Mansion after Gonzo is challenged to spend one night within its halls. Meanwhile, all Pepe wants to do is go to a Halloween party and hang out with celebrities –- until he finds himself charmed by Henson.
“Muppets Haunted Mansion” continues a long line of star-studded Muppets specials, but this one is particularly interesting in how it adapts a beloved ride from the Disney parks. In fact, The Bride portrayed by Henson in the special is a key part of the ride. The murders of her husbands play a major role throughout the fan-favorite ride at Disneyland and Disney World, with Pepe stepping into potentially be the next unlucky man to make her a widow yet again.