In the candid cover interview, the 44-year-old actress talks about landing the role of Cookie Lyon in director Lee Daniels' Empire, revealing that she had first auditioned for another famous Daniels role -- the role of Precious in his critically acclaimed 2009 film of the same name. The part of Precious -- an overweight, HIV-positive teenager who's pregnant by her father for the second time -- eventually went to Gabourey Sidibe.
... Say what?!
"Lee wanted me for the thin, pretty teacher in Precious," she reveals. "And I was like, 'Well, I want to play Precious -- because that's the role in this piece.' Lee thought I was nuts. I was like, 'Look, they turned Charlize Theron into a monster! I could be this girl!' When I think about that now, it was such a Cookie move."
But it's important to note that Cookie isn't Taraji's only high-profile role. She memorably played Brad Pitt's adopted mother, Queenie, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which she got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for.
"I lost, but it was the best time of my life," she recalls. "Brad and Angelina rushed up to me and said, 'Are you okay?' I was like, 'Yes! Can I get some more wine?!' They were more concerned about my name not being called than I was."
Taraji says she didn't get offered more feature film roles after the 2008 David Fincher hit like one would expect, but clearly, her Empire role turned out to be even more incredible for her career.
"Not only would I never be offered a character like Cookie in a movie, but she doesn't exist," she explains about the Fox hit. "Cookie is bold and crazy, and she loves the struggle. She started from nothing, and now she’s at the top. In that way, we're alike: Cookie is the American Dream. ... To me, Cookie is living, breathing, walking truth."
The former Person of Interest star says she doesn't "get involved" when she hears criticism that her outspoken character is a bad representation of black women.
"Maybe Cookie makes you uncomfortable because she reminds you of yourself," she muses. "People miss the bigger picture when they start judging."