The Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress is hosting the awards show for the second year in a row.
Taraji P. Henson has some big surprises for this year's BET Awards audience. The Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress will host the annual awards show for the second year in a row, and she plans to outdo her hosting debut.
Last year, Henson used her hosting position to honor some iconic Black women who have impacted pop culture with a memorable opening monologue and various ensembles that honored and celebrated the styles and looks of some groundbreaking artists.
ET spoke with Henson before the show airs on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and she shared some details on what fans can expect when they tune in.
Calling the awards ceremony a "high-energy show," the actress said that she "called on some friends" for this year's celebrations. "I kind of want to keep it a surprise 'cause it's a moment that I implemented in the show... it's gonna be pretty legendary," she teased. "I love shocking people. You know, you have to start these shows at a high energy or you'll lose the audience. So trust me, it's gonna be incredible again."
"Last year, we focused our energy on loving up the women. I think the fellas deserve some love this year," she added.
But what won't be a surprise is Henson's numerous costume changes! "I think [there are] 15 or 14," she admitted, likening the changes to her days in the theater. "It's not me, it's my team! They want to outdo themselves."
Connie Orlando, BET Executive Vice President, and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, an executive producer behind the annual awards show, told ET that Henson was always the first choice for this year's host.
"I think we asked her three minutes after we finished last year’s show because she’s just so phenomenal and she’s the queen of the multihat," Orlando gushed. "She can do anything -- she has done everything and this is just the perfect home for her."
Rouzan-Clay echoed the sentiment, adding, "It's always great when you have a host who's engaged not only with the show but with the culture and resonates with our audience. I think that's what Connie's talking about when she says right after last year’s show we knew we had to invite [Henson] back because she got such a great response from from our audience at home and the audience here. I mean, everybody loves her and there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do... we're just excited to have her back this year."
"We have a bigger entrance this year and it's gonna be fun and I think everyone's gonna really lean into it like last year," Orlando shared. "She's going to set the tone for this whole celebration and I can't wait. You should not miss the beginning!"
The duo also hinted that Henson would put on her own performance for the show, with Rouzan-Clay teasing that the actress "wanted to do something a little special" and viewers might see "a little Taraji in action" onstage.
Sunday is also a big night for Sean "Diddy" Combs -- who will not only be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award but will give a star-studded performance retrospective on his musical legacy as a producer and artist. It's a moment Henson looks forward to, citing Diddy's impact on the Black culture as a media mogul.
"Diddy means so much to the culture -- I mean, you can't talk about hip-hop, you can't talk about fashion, you can't even talk about alcohol without his name coming up," she noted. "[He's an] iconic, legendary star to so many careers and he should be celebrated. We should give him his flowers while he's still alive to receive them. It's about time."
Meanwhile, Henson has been working on some big projects of her own, including inking an overall deal with BET Studios and starring as Shug Avery in the Blitz Bazawule-directed film adaptation of the Broadway musical The Color Purple.
"It's magical, that's the only way I can put it," the 51-year-old said of the production. "Blitz's vision is just so majestic and I don't know if I've ever seen Black people look so beautiful."
She continued, "In a time when it wasn't beautiful for Black people, there's still beauty there and joy. It's not so heavy and depressed and weighing on the trauma, you know, it's really about how miraculously Black people can find joy even in the darkest places."
The project will offer audiences a chance to see Henson shine in a musical. "I have goosebumps just thinking about the music and what Fatima has done with this choreography," she shared. "I don't think you guys are ready. You certainly aren't prepared to hear me sing the way I'm singing in this 'cause every time I hear myself, I'm shocked over and over again. Like, that's me!"
As for her deal with BET Studios, Henson said she wants to use the partnership to bring more Black and diverse stories to light. "There's not just one Black person, we are diverse in our culture [and] stories that teach and shift the thinking through characters that are real," she stated.
That includes stories that provide rarely-seen perspectives, including ones that address the mental health struggles rife within the Black community.
"If we had more stories that exposed characters or people living with mental health challenges than it wouldn't be so taboo," the Peace of Mind host mused. "We would be able to talk about it right because we see it every week on our television, representation matters across the board. The human race is just so full and diverse and it's just so much to talk about."