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Taraji’s Next Film Covers Lost Story In Black History

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Taraji P. Henson plays the lead role as college golf coach Dr. Catana Starks. (Photo Courtesy of From the Rough Productions)By Andrew Scot Bolsinger

An Oscar-nominated actor is taking her skills to an independent movie that opened this week called “From the Rough.”

Taraji Henson, whose acclaimed role in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” helped launch her career, said the opportunity to portray the groundbreaking life of Catana Starks, the first black woman to coach an all-male NCAA golf team, attracted her to the indie film.

Starks had to overcome both race and gender in the overwhelmingly white and male world of golf. She also had to learn the game.

In an exclusive interview with the Grio, Henson talked about why she took on the role of Coach Starks. “I’d never seen her story done before. Just reading about her tenacity and her faith. Wow!” Henson said.  “We never think of women coaching men. We know that it exists, but we never see it. When is the last you saw a movie where a woman coach was the center of the story? We have men coaching women’s teams all the time, but we never see it the other way around.
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Starks was the swimming and diving coach at Tennessee State University and had only played golf recreationally when she got the job. By the time Starks ended her coaching career, her men’s golf team became national champions with a record that still stands today, the Grio reported. Over time she built a racially diverse team.

“I read the script, and I understood her struggle. Before we actually met, we talked on the phone, and I asked her all kinds of questions. I wanted to know what she was going through at that time and what parts of the screenplay were true and what parts were added on by the writers. They had to add a little Hollywood sprinkle dust on it to get people in movie seats,” said Henson.

Starks was on set during the making of the film.

“I asked her if she felt like I should look like her, talk like her, walk like her and all of that, but her response put me at ease. She told me she didn’t care about that stuff; she just cared about getting the story out there and empowering women,” said Henson.

Henson said she knew the biopic she would like to star in that hasn’t been done yet. “There are so many stories out there, but I’d have to say Eartha Kitt.  I’ve always been a fan of hers, but I was just talking to a girlfriend about an interview she did where she talked about compromise. She has a great story. I’d love to do that and other ones too,” said Henson.

Andrew Scot Bolsinger won more than two dozen press awards during his journalism career. He is a freelance writer, author and operates, which is focused on prison reform. He can reached at Follow @CriminalUniv on Twitter.