The drama that Taraji P. Henson faces as Cookie Lyon on Empire is nothing compared to what she's had to deal with in her real life.
The Golden Globe-winning actress is detailing her darkest days in her new memoir, Around the Way Girl, and she opened up about her past in a sit-down with ET.
"My father, he was homeless," Henson told ET's Jennifer Peros. "He served in the military. He was a police officer. He battled with his demons just like all humans do, but my father didn't hide it from me."
When she was just 4 years old, Henson says, her father tried to kidnap her. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button star was caught in the middle of her parents' abusive marriage and divorce, but says she is not bitter. According to Henson, her father was just wanting to spend time with her. She even claims part of her success has been inspired by him.
"A lot of Cookie comes from my father, who was no holds barred," she said. "A lot of the one-line zingers are things my dad would say."
Once she became an adult, Henson was no longer bound by her parents' relationship, but it wasn't clear sailing. At 23, the aspiring actress was a pregnant college student caught in a relationship that became physically abusive. Henson bravely split from the father of her child after he punched her in the face.
"You can find yourself in any bad situation in life," she said. "Guess who it is up to to get out of it? You. That's it. If you're not chained to a wall and no one has a gun to your head and says, 'I'm going to shoot you,' where's the power? You have the power."
Henson, 43, attended Howard University, where her 22-year-old son, Marcel, transferred last year.
"He doesn't remember all the bad times like when we were poor, eating Oodles of Noodles," Henson said.
Now that her broke days are behind her, could Henson be thinking about more kids in the future?
"I don't know," she said. "Time is actually ticking, so it might not be up to me," she added with a laugh.
Around the Way Girl is available now.