Taraji P. Henson Discusses Disconnecting From Character In The Color Purple

This film deals with so many dark themes, like you said trauma. How do you go from filming in the day, immersing yourself in that headspace and then leaving for the day? What do you do to wash that off after filming has finished?

When they yell, “It’s a wrap”, “cut” or “It’s a wrap for the day” I leave her on the set. I think I trained myself to do that because I was a mother early on in my career and when I would leave work, I couldn’t take that character home. I didn’t have time. When I walked through that door my son had to eat, he needed to go to bed, we had to do homework or the PTA so I didn’t have time. I had to train myself. I literally have a switch I can turn on and off even on set, especially when we’re dealing with such heavy subject matter. I can’t carry my burdens and the characters’, that’s too much and something has got to give.

I think that speaks to how much of an amazing actor you are. You’re in for a job and this is the job that you can leave at work, or switch on this character straight away.

Well, I mean my body is my instrument. A pianist doesn’t have to think about the notes, their hands just do it because it’s in them. So for me as an actor, that’s our job. Our job is to get to whatever emotion it says in that script, you have to be able to turn it on right there and then. I don’t have eight hours for you to squeak a tear out or take these directions. That’s my job as an actor to understand my instrument.

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