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'Empire's' Taraji Henson New Role Celebrates Real-Life NASA Mathematician Genius

Aug 17, 2016 03:00 AM EDT
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The 1960s was a decade marked by oppression of women and racial division. During such time, NASA was at its formative years. Thus despite the times, African-American women were breaking barriers and one genius mathematician even made it to the space agency's programs.

In the latest film "Hidden Figures," it highlights the stories of three African-American women who helped in the first human space mission. The film is based on the book with the same title written by Margot Lee Shetterly.

One of the women who had been part of NASA's first human space mission was Katherine Johnson, a genius mathematician. Johnson had plotted the trajectories of an orbiting spacecraft, which carried the first American by the name of John Glenn.

"Hidden Figures" is basically a personal story about the struggles faced by Johnson and her two friends working at NASA namely engineer Mary Jackson and mathematician Dorothy Vaughan. For the film, "Empire's" Taraji P. Henson plays the role of Johnson.

"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, because I'm used to supporting movies. I've never carried a show and then moved on to carrying a film. That was hard, but worth it for Catherine Johnson's story," stated Johnson.

After the successful human space mission, Johnson worked for the Apollo program. She also provided substantial work for the early Space Shuttle program. By 1986, Johnson had left NASA. It was in 2015 that Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

In a nutshell, the film is a feel good movie that highlights the importance of the people working in the background for NASA's missions. The film stars a number of Hollywood A-listers such as Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. As for the film's music, it is collaboration between Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer. "Hidden Figures" will soon hit theaters on January 13, 2017.

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