Taraji P. Henson’s new overall deal at BET Studios is already paying dividends, with Henson in talks to produce and star in “Queenie,” a new series about Stephanie St. Clair, otherwise known as the “Godmother of Harlem.”
Adapted by Leigh Davenport, the series is based on the book “The World of Stephanie St. Clair: An Entrepreneur, Race Woman and Outlaw in the Early Twentieth Century Harlem” by Shirley Stewart. It tells the true story of St. Clair, who in the 1920s and ’30s was “the most profitable female ‘numbers banker’ in an illegal underworld run by the most vicious and notorious of men.”
“To put it too simply, all she ever wanted was to run and mind her own business. After all, she was a lady,” the series logline explains. “But when a greedy and violent mobster began encroaching on her territory, she stood in defiance, waging a war that changed Harlem, and her life, forever.”
In addition to starring in the project, Henson would produce under her TPH Entertainment banner alongside Christine and Mark Holder of Wonder Street. The Holders optioned the book and brought the project to the Oscar nominee and her producing partner Christine Conley, who will also produce.
In March, Henson and TPH Entertainment inked an overall deal with BET Studios as the company continues on its mission to supply the increased demand for premium content from Black creators.
“BET has always been the foundation of my fanbase and a huge supporter of me throughout my career,” Henson stated at the time, announcing the partnership. “BET Studios understands and perfectly aligns with my vision of why I founded TPH Entertainment, to increase opportunities and create content that will challenge audiences and inspire new perspectives. I am so excited to join them and for the incredible content we will create together. This partnership will be for the culture.”
While Henson is well known for her Emmy-nominated run as Cookie Lyon on “Empire” and her Oscar-nominated performance in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (playing a woman, coincidentally, named Queenie), her filmography includes other historical roles. For 2016’s “Hidden Figures,” Henson stepped into the history-making shoes of NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson. The film went on to be nominated for best picture. In 2019, Henson embodied the late civil rights activist Ann Atwater in “The Best of Enemies.” The acclaimed actor is next set to appear as Shug Avery in Blitz Bazawule’s musical adaptation of “The Color Purple.”
Henson is represented by CAA, M88, The Lede Company and Johnson, Shapiro, Slewitt & Kole.
The Holders’ Wonder Street is currently in production on the CBS pilot “East New York,” starring Amanda Warren and Jimmy Smits. They most recently produced “The Mauritanian,” which won star Jodie Foster a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, and Netflix’s Emmy-nominated limited series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” starring Octavia Spencer.