The Academy Award-nominated actress will play the orphanage’s cruel manager, Miss Hannigan, who hates all children but especially Annie. Henson will lead the musical opposite a soon-to-be-discovered star, as the network kicks off its nationwide casting search for the titular redheaded optimist.
“When we decided to bring back NBC’s holiday musical tradition, we were looking for something that was critically acclaimed and universally beloved – and while that’s definitely the case with ‘Annie,’ it absolutely applies to Taraji as well,” Susan Rovner, chairman, Entertainment Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. “Watching her take on this iconic role will be a thrill that has all the makings of must-watch television.”
“Carol Burnett, who brought Miss Hannigan to life in the classic 1982 movie, is someone I have studied and idolized as far back as I can remember,” Henson said. “So when the opportunity came to me to join NBC and this incredible group of producers, I jumped! Carol, I hope to do you proud!”
Henson won the Golden Globe, the SAG Award and the Critic’s Choice Award for her performance of Cookie Lyon on Fox’s musical drama “Empire,” and was nominated for an Oscar for her role in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. On top of acting and producing, Henson is an activist, a best-selling author, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She is repped by M88, Ziffren Law and the Lede Company.
“Annie,” based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” from the early 1920s, has been licensed and performed in 50 countries and translated into eight languages. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1977, and was adapted into two more movies, one in 1999 featuring Kathy Bates and one in 2014 starring Quvenzhané Wallis. “Annie Live!” will be executive produced by Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron, and Alex Rudzinsky, with Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski sharing the directing duties. Choreography will be led by Sergio Trujillo. Paul Tazewell will design costumes. Jason Sherwood will orchestrate production design. Stephen Oremus will oversee the music direction. The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions.
Auditions for the role of Annie will happen virtually, and rehearsals will take place in October and November 2021 in New York. The musical will debut on-screen Thursday, Dec. 2 on NBC.