Taraji P. Henson felt a ''duty'' to star in 'Hidden Figures'.

The 'Empire' actress has taken on the role of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson in the drama about three African-American women who were on the team that helped to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit in the 1960s and Taraji was proud to portray Johnson on the big screen.

She told The Wrap: ''This movie I had to do, I just felt like it was my duty. We always celebrate the astronauts, but we don't celebrate the mathematicians behind it. But I didn't know that these women existed and I was like, 'Why are we just learning about them?' And I couldn't wait to meet Katherine Johnson, she's still very much alive. She's 98 now.

''What struck me most was her humility. She found the 'we' in 'I.' Because John Glenn asked for Katherine in a time when it was very difficult for women, especially black women - [we] couldn't even vote. She focused on solutions, not problems.''

The movie, which has been directed by Ted Melfi, also stars Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

And NASA chief Charles Bolden Jr. was in awe of Johnson when he met her and says that he owes her a great debt.

He explained: ''Had it not been for what she did, I wouldn't even have been where I am today. That's why she's very important to me. She's one of those people on whose shoulders I stand.

''I think the movie is absolutely tremendous. I tell all of our employees: They will laugh, they will cry, they will scream in anger and then they will walk out incredibly proud that they are part of the NASA team.''