Taraji P. Henson brought her 'A' game for scenes with Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures.
The 46-year-old actress stars in the biographical drama as one of three African-American women who overcame a series of obstacles to contribute to the Space Race being undertaken at NASA in the 1960s.
In one memorable scene in the film, Henson's mathematician character Katherine Johnson stands up to her superior Al Harrison, as played by Costner, as he asks where she goes during the day, unaware that she has to trek across campus to use a bathroom reserved for black people. Speaking about the pivotal sequence, Henson admits she poured all of her energy into getting the tone of the conversation right.
"I just knew I was doing a big scene with Kevin Costner. You bring your 'A' game!" she told Cinema Blend, adding that she worked hard to capture Johnson's vulnerability amid the indignity she endured.
"But I understood where I was, you know? I did my research, so I knew exactly where my character was, and her state of mind. It's something about the humiliation of coming back into (the office)."
The audience repeatedly sees Johnson sprint across the NASA grounds to use the restroom, causing her to waste time when she could really be working. And Henson was careful to portray Johnson's vulnerabilities, particularly at one point when she gets soaked in the rain before returning to work.
"She's a lady, and now she's sopping wet. Her hair that she has spent all of this time getting so pretty in the morning, her make-up, and she's in a room full of men," she shared. They thought she was a janitor! Or the cleaning lady, or whatever... So you just jump in, and you commit to it."
Meanwhile, movie veteran Costner explained that the scene works because director Theodore Melfi really builds the tension throughout the narrative. He adds that Henson "killed" her dialogue in the movie.
"We were all a part of pushing her buttons, and Taraji really delivered on that moment," he smiled.