“Abbott Elementary” will finally reveal Janine’s mother on the ABC comedy’s April 12 episode, and even though it’s April Fool’s Day, we’re not (Cookie) Lyon: It’s “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson, who will play Vanetta on the hit comedy series.
The casting of Henson was revealed Saturday at the Paley Center for Media’s annual PaleyFest LA event, where an “Abbott Elementary” panel featured stars Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Walter, Tyler James Wiliams, and William Stanford Davis in person, as well as Janelle James and Chris Perfetti via Zoom from New York. Pre-taping a message was star and executive producer Quinta Brunson, who wasn’t able to attend — as she’s hosting tonight’s installment of “Saturday Night Live.”
In the “Abbott Elementary” episode “Mom,” Janine (played by Brunson) is planning a Memorial Day weekend solo trip. But that’s derailed when her mother Vanetta, played by Henson, shows up unannounced and asking for help. (The episode’s B story line involves Gregory, played by Williams, looking to brush up on his people skills.)
“Mom,” which airs at 9 p.m. ET on April 12, is the 21st episode of Season 2; the season finale of “Abbott Elementary” airs the next week.
Henson is the latest guest star to appear as a part of Janine’s family, as the show continues to start sharing more background on its characters. Also this season, Ayo Edibiri appeared as Ayesha, Janine’s sister.
Henson earned three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe Award, a Critics Choice Award and three BET awards for playing Cookie Lyon on the smash hit “Empire.” Her other credits include “Hustle & Flow,” her breakout role that earned her a BET Award for best actress, among other accolades.
Henson has been seen in the films “Hidden Figures,” “Think Like a Man,” “Talk to Me,” “Smokin’ Aces,” “The Family That Preys,” “No Good Dead,” “Hurricane Season,” “Larry Crowne,” “What Men Want,” “The Best of Enemies” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which earned her an Oscar nom for supporting actress.
Henson has also lent her voice to the animated films “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2.” She additionally won an NAACP award for her role as Miss Hannigan in NBC’s “Annie Live!”
Next up, she appears in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical take on “The Color Purple.”