Taraji P. Henson Says She Lost ‘St. Vincent’ Role to Naomi Watts Because of Racism

While many famous stars have lost out on roles simply because their audition wasn’t good enough, Taraji P. Henson claims she lost out on a major gig simply because she’s black. What’s worse: She says the role was created specifically with her in mind.

In an excerpt from her new memoir, Around the Way Girl, obtained by USA Today, Henson writes that St. Vincent screenwriter and director Theodore Melfi created the part of a pregnant stripper in the 2014 comedy specifically for Henson, but alleges that the role was eventually given to Naomi Watts “because someone with the ability to green-light a film couldn’t see black women beyond a very limited purview he or she thought ‘fit’ audience expectations.”

“It was a meaty gig,” the Empire star pens. “I would have loved it. Alas, I couldn’t get served at that particular restaurant.”

Henson also details the struggles of being a black woman in Hollywood. Though she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, she reveals she received “the equivalent of sofa change” compared to the salaries of white co-stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Getting paid only “the lowest of six figures,” the actress adds that she also had to pay for her own hotel for three months during the filming.

The film made over $300 million at the worldwide box office. In fact, residents of Louisiana, where the 2008 movie was shot, even had to fork over $27,117,737 to cover the state’s tax credits for the producers.

According to Henson, she used that disappointment for her acting, writing, “When I did that, my performance of Queenie became transformed into a spiritual awakening, not just for me but also the audiences who watched the film and cheered my performance.”