Henson first shared the story about losing the role to a white actress in her 2016 memoir Around the Way Girl, adding that she thought it was because she’s a black woman. The character was a stripper mom in St. Vincent, and Naomi Watts was later cast for the role.
In a new interview with The Guardian, Henson shares that as producer of the film, Weinstein allegedly made the decision.
She was asked if race was a determinant in his decision, to which she replied, “Yeah.” She explained, “Basically, I don’t think he saw my box-office appeal. What I heard—I didn’t sit down with the man—is that he wanted someone who was known internationally, so they got Naomi Watts.”
Even though St. Vincent wasn't a box office hit, Henson still felt gutted by Weinstein’s decision. She wrote in her memoir, “Time and again, I’ve lost roles because someone with the ability to greenlight a film couldn’t see black women beyond a very limited purview he or she thought ‘fit’ audience expectations,” she said, adding. “It was a meaty gig. I would have loved it.”
When asked about the glut of sexual assault allegations made against Weinstein, Henson said, “Well, you know, I just sit here and I sip my tea,” Henson said, while actually sipping a cup of tea. “I never wished anything bad on the man. I was just, like, ‘O.K., he’ll see. That’s another person who’ll have to eat crow. How would you like yours? Fried? Toasted?’”
Following Henson’s interview, a spokesperson for Weinstein sent Vanity Fair a statement, denying Henson’s claim:
“Once again, simply because someone says something does not make it true, and the continuous drumbeat of any Hollywood star who believes that he or she can gain greater reverence by invoking Weinstein’s name is just getting tiresome. The fact here is that Ms. Henson is a terrific actor and that is why she starred in five films connected to Weinstein. To make this about anything other than that is shameful. When Maya Angelou could not find anyone to back her film Down in the Delta, Weinstein backed it and produced it. From actors like Idris Elba, Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, and Taraji Henson, and films such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and The Great Debaters, to name a few, Harvey Weinstein has a long record of finding the best talent for some of the most respected film projects.”