BET Awards host Taraji P. Henson, who will front the first major live, in-person awards show since the pandemic with a full audience on Sunday, is ready to be around people again.

“This is what we live for. It’s life, and it’s time we go out to play,” said Henson, who will host the show at Microsoft Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

Henson is also looking forward to paying tribute to BET Awards Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Queen Latifah. “I want to tell her in person and on live television how much she has meant to me and how much she has inspired me,” Henson said. “She built a brand. She came from hip hop, she had a record label and flipped that, she became a TV executive producer and had her own show. She did movie after movie. She just reinvents herself.”

Connie Orlando, exec VP of specials, music programming and music strategy at BET Networks, said COVID safety protocols are in place for the event, and that her team has been working closely with LA County to make sure all attendees are safe. “That’s our priority, we will let nothing will fall on our watch.”

Among the nominees are DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and Drake. Set to perform are Migos, Andra Day, H.E.R. and DaBaby. All Orlando will say of the stage is it will be unlike anything audiences have ever seen. “I was at the venue earlier and it’s this beauty of things coming to life. We’ve reconfigured the stage, there’s no orchestra seating like we’re used to. It’s a new configuration.”

Orlando said the show would deliver a great celebration of Black excellence and calls it “culture’s biggest night… These are moments that drive culture and we’ll have things you’ll be tweeting and talking about. With Taraji hosting and honoring Queen Latifah, that’s so big. They’re both icons, and it really goes to show that we’re coming back.”

Aside from hosting the BET Awards, next up Henson has signed on play Miss Hannigan in NBC’s “Annie” live musical. Henson said she remains a huge fan of Carol Burnett, who played the character — the boozy head of an orphanage — in the 1982 “Annie” movie. “I watched her growing up. She made me fall in love with comedy, and she kept me home,” Henson said. As a young child, she would spend hours in front of the TV watching Burnett on TV. “I’ve told her how she impacted my life. That fact, I’m stepping into those shoes – I don’t take it lightly.”

The BET Awards will air June 27th at 8/7c on BET and simulcast on BET Her, Logo, MTV, MTV2, TV Land and VH1.