Taraji P. Henson Joins 'Annie' NBC Musical in Major Role

The next musical to be adapted into a made-for-TV production appears to be the beloved classic Annie, with NBC set to stage the show as a holiday production in 2021. Variety reports that the production has already begun casting, naming Empire star Taraji P. Henson as its Ms. Hannigan.

"When we decided to bring back NBC’s holiday musical tradition, we were looking for something that was critically acclaimed and universally beloved – and while that’s definitely the case with Annie, it absolutely applies to Taraji as well," Susan Rovner, chairman, Entertainment Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. "Watching her take on this iconic role will be a thrill that has all the makings of must-watch television."

Henson is the first member of the cast to be announced and a nationwide search is currently underway to find the musical's young star with auditions to be held virtually. Whichever talented tween ends up with the coveted role will be spending plenty of time with Henson, as several of the musical's early scenes take place at the New York City orphanage Annie lives in, which is run by the little girl-hating Ms. Hannigan.

The villainous character was previously portrayed on film by Carol Burnett, Kathy Bates and Cameron Diaz, who played the role in film adaptations of the musical in 1982, 1999 and 2014, respectively. "Carol Burnett, who brought Miss Hannigan to life in the classic 1982 movie, is someone I have studied and idolized as far back as I can remember," Henson in a statement. "So when the opportunity came to me to join NBC and this incredible group of producers, I jumped! Carol, I hope to do you proud!"

The musical Annie, which is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” from the early 1920s, premiered on Broadway in 1977 and has been licensed and performed in 50 countries and translated into eight languages. Rehearsals for NBC's Annie Live will take place in October and November in New York, and the musical will air on Thursday, Dec. 2 on NBC.

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Along with the upcoming musical, Henson is also working on developing a spinoff of Empire focused on her character, Cookie Lyon. Empire wrapped up its run in April 2020 with an unintended season finale after the pandemic halted filming amid the show's penultimate episode, and Henson told Entertainment Weekly that she wants to give Cookie a proper send-off.

"As an artist, to not be able to finish something that you started, that hurts me," she said. "I feel incomplete. I don’t ever start something and don’t complete it. And so, for me, it’s deep; I have to finish, or this will haunt me for the rest of my life and career. As it would the audience. And I don’t think we should deprive such a loyal fan base of that ending. They deserve to be in their feelings. They deserve more than this abrupt ending. And I get it, where we are right now, we have to be responsible. But I think when the dust settles, at the end of the day, the audience deserves it."