Taraji P. Henson plans to change the hitwoman game in Proud Mary
Hidden Figures and Empire star Taraji P. Henson is Mary, a hitwoman who crosses paths with a young boy on a hit that will completely change her life in organized crime.
ComingSoon.net visited the Boston set of Proud Mary, which is executive produced by Henson and directed by Babak Najafi (London Has Fallen). Getting into the town, you immediately got the feel of the film’s location – sleek financial district appeal mixed in with industrial elegant brick apartment buildings and east coast city streets.
We got to watch a scene in which Henson as Mary drives to her apartment in her Maserati during a high-tension key moment in the film. Donning getaway suitable workout gear, she charges into her place on a mission. Someone is in trouble and Mary looks like she’s about to take control of the situation like she’s been trained to do her whole life.
The thriller promises not only to be action packed but also has an important genuine relationship at the core that changes our hitwoman heroine. While sitting down with the versatile Taraji P. Henson, she revealed how she crafted her character: “I kinda based Mary on the Iceman. What I found most intriguing about him is that it’s just his job. He had a family, he did Christmas, he did things regular people do – he just killed people for a living. And he would go kill somebody and go back to the suburbs and be a father and his family never knew. I just find it so interesting that he was very charming. I was trying to find the humanity in Mary, so I just watched a lot of those (true-crime) videos. There’s a code and it was more respected.” She explained how that impacted her hitwoman M.O., “People had a protocol and there was a way that you handled things. Mary doesn’t kill women and she doesn’t kill children. And so when you meet her at the beginning of the story, you meet her at a crossroads because she’s done one of the things she’s said she wouldn’t do – that was her code. Most of the gangsters I researched said they would never kill children and women. So I just took that on, I wouldn’t kill my own.”
Having grown up under the wing of one of Boston’s biggest crime bosses, played by Danny Glover, Mary starts off in the film as a woman numbed by what she does in order to be the best. She lives off that high of the job. But when her code is compromised during a hit, she saves and takes in a kid, which doesn’t sit well with the crime family.
“You meet her at the height of her career. Look at it, she lives in a loft, she’s doing very well for herself killing people. She enjoys it when you first meet, then the one thing she would never do happens. Right then and there her life changes and sees this kid is affected. So here’s this chance where she gets to correct her wrongs through this kid.” Henson shared about the crux Mary has in this film that’s a lot different than some of the other hitwomen we’ve seen on screen who tend to have no relationships. Proud Mary seeks to explore the identity of a killer in a film that’s not just action scene after action scene.
Co-star Billy Brown said, “We had a relationship that was fostered from her being brought into the family by my father Benny (Danny Glover), who runs a business that straddles the line between legal and nefarious. We know we’re involved in a little gun running and some other kind of trade. It’s a family trying to stay where they are and keep the family together. She was a runaway and he enabled her to be what she became. A ruthless killer and strong businesswoman. We fell in love and she wanted out. I’m trying to keep her as close as possible. It’s not just business but an emotional construct that is shifted if she’s to be lost.”
Transitioning from killing machine to a person she didn’t allow herself to be, Mary gives Henson the opportunity to give us a look at a killer in a way we haven’t before. “To be a woman and to kill is different than a man,” Henson described, “You see this woman who is not a nurturer, all she knows is out of instinct – I have to save this kid. I don’t want this kid to end up like me. She’s operating out of guilt and through that she learns to be a nurturer. She learns how to love through guilt.”
Jahi Di’Allo Winston plays Danny, the kid in question, and while he’s very happy-go-lucky and a rising young talent, his character is the opposite. “He’s gone through so much. Lots of kids on the streets have mature ways about them because they’ve had to fend for themselves. They’ve been through so much at so young,” he said while sitting next to Henson. The duo bounces off each other with great chemistry and Winston discussed what it was like to get to co-star with her. “I’ve always wanted to work with her even before ‘Empire.’ After ‘No Good Deed’! She’s so silly, but she’s so serious when it comes to her craft. The theater is one thing when you’re watching this person work when you see the transformation from Taraji to Mary. It’s serious.”
Keeping the set in great spirits is very important to Taraji P. Henson. “You don’t get a movie made unless the studio okays who is the box office draw. I have an audience. People know me in these Boston streets,” she said referring to the outdoor location we explored where folk do recognize her memorable expressive eyes in every role she’s played. She also pointed out, “I have an international audience that’s what makes me upset. I do these huge international movies and I never go. How can I break over there if you don’t take me? Here’s the issue, they know me out there. They know me as Cookie. Who knew TV would make me an international star? So now I gotta fight for it. I have an audience that has been with me since the beginning. They trust me. I’m really dedicated to my craft. They see that and root so hard for me.”
With this film opening on January 12, 2018, we agree that it’s time that Henson is recognized through her transformative film legacy, Proud Mary and beyond.