The Hustle & Flow star is best known for playing tough Cookie Lyon in TV hit Empire, but she's determined not to get typecast - and her latest film role could not be further from the character.

Henson plays one of a team of African-American women who worked with NASA on the first space mission in period drama Hidden Figures, and she hopes the role not only serves to honour the forgotten ladies but also gives casting directors a new take on her acting skill set.

"I did not know that women were instrumental in getting men into space because everything that I had watched, you saw men in the room smoking cigarettes," Taraji tells "Where are these women? They erased us from history.

"I'm not talking about just black women - black and white women. What I like most is that people will realise that I'm not just Cookie. She's the polar opposite. She's a rocket scientist. I'm a character actress and I have to remind people, 'I know you love Cookie, but I do more than just Cookie'."

And she's hoping to further hammer that home with the release of her memoir, Around the Way Girl, in October (16).

"When I would do interviews and they heard that I moved to California with my son and only $700 in the bank, they would ask, 'How did you do that?', Henson explains when asked about the inspiration for the book. "The fans really ordered this book because I never saw myself as an author, but I always say to God that I want to touch people with my story. It's different. It's unique. I thought, 'How can I share it with the world? What's the best way?' Write a book!"