Welcome to the 24th installment of our 2020 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Henrietta “Hen” Wilson, played by Aisha Hinds, is a paramedic firefighter with the 118 in FOX’s 9-1-1. She is sometimes considered the “Mother Hen” of the crew and big sister. Her marriage with her partner Karen can get a little rocky sometimes, but they love and support each other no matter what. When times are tough, Hen knows she can lean on the 118 and Karen to help her get through it. Keep reading to find out why Henrietta Wilson is being recognized in the Pride Month Spotlight.
In season 1, Hen is dealing with a lot. Her ex, Eva, is in prison and asks Hen to help her get parole. In the fifth episode, she’s leaning toward helping Eva, but Karen isn’t on board with her decision. Hen tells Athena she feels like she owes her something. Eva is Hen’s first love, but Karen’s worried. Eva’s kind of a bad person, and Karen doesn’t want her in their life. The seventh episode has Hen getting a call from Eva, who is now out of prison. Athena tells Hen to work on her marriage instead of being on the phone with her ex-girlfriend. At the very end of the episode, however, Hen knocks on Eva’s door, and they have sex. Eva tries to regain custody of their son, Denny, on the grounds that she is his biological mother and claimed that Hen’s cheating on Karen made their household unsuitable for Denny to live in. In the first half of the season, Hen learns that she is unable to have kids and doesn’t tell Karen. While receiving the papers from Eva, Karen finds out and decides to take Denny to live with her parents, leaving Hen.
The ninth episode finds Hen discussing her custody problems with Athena. She’s worried that Eva might have a case and she could lose her son. Hen visits Eva near the end of the episode, and Eva tells Hen she wants her back. However, Hen loves Karen, and Denny already has a family with the two of them. In the season finale, Hen realizes she still needs to mend her relationship with Karen and confronts her. Karen is willing to give Hen one more chance, and throughout the following two seasons, they go through their ups and downs, trying to expand their family, but it’s clear that they still love and support each other and always will.
The first season also shows Hen’s relationship with the 118. In the fourth episode, after a harrowing call for a plane crash, Bobby has a conversation with his dead child, sitting down at an empty table set for four, being the only one. Hen and Buck arrive at Bobby’s apartment the following day after trying to call him. Hen takes out her spare key and opens the door, and sees the table set for four; Bobby passed out on his bed with an empty bottle of alcohol. Hen and Buck get Bobby in the shower, and he wakes up, looking at the two of them staring back down at him. Hen’s relationship with Athena is also shown throughout the season, even more so throughout seasons 2 and 3. They know they can tell the other about their problems and what’s going on in their lives, trusting the other to give them advice and a shoulder to lean on.
Season 2 begins with Hen and Karen slowly trying to repair their relationship. In the fifth episode, when they’re at the park with Michael and the kids, Eva walks up to Denny, who has no idea that she is his birth mother. Hen and Karen, however, notice her before she can talk to him, telling her to back off since she gave away her parental rights. Denny’s biological dad, though, never did, and he’s standing right behind Eva. Hen and Karen’s lawyer tells them that the father, Nathaniel Green, has a strong case if he really wants to take Denny. Eva is only doing this to get back at Hen for leaving her because she thinks Hen still loves her; she brought her back into their lives. Hen decides she’s going to take care of it, trailing Eva. She sees her buying drugs and bangs on her motel room door. Eva is passed out on the floor with a needle in her arm, and Hen breaks in. She realizes she could let Eva die and never deal with her again and starts to walk back toward the door, but that’s just not her. Hen calls 911, and when Eva finally comes to, Hen tells her she called her parole officer, and she’s soon headed to the hospital and then right back to jail.
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Hen has Athena do a background check on Nathaniel, and she realizes he’s not so awful. He had a rough patch after his wife died and started drinking, landing him in rehab with Eva. Since then, however, he’s lived a model life. Nathaniel meets with Hen and Karen and tells them that he can see Denny has a good life; they are his parents and should decide what’s best for him. All Hen wants is what’s best for Denny. When it came to having his biological father involved, Hen realizes that it may not be all bad if he wants to have a visit or two with him. He’s nice and knows Denny has a good life with Hen and Karen.
The second season also has Hen’s backstory. You learn that before she became a paramedic, she was a pharmaceutical rep but quit. She meets with a life coach to help her figure out what to do next, and her life coach has a heart attack. Hen’s quick thinking and CPR saves her life, and she realizes what she wants to do. She’s dating Eva at the time, who reminds her that being a black gay woman in the LAFD isn’t going to be easy, but Hen likes a challenge; this is her calling. She starts her training, getting assigned to none other than Firehouse 118, meeting Chimney. Things at the 118 don’t start great, especially since Captain Girard clearly wants Hen to quit. She meets up with Athena, who she had then just met, and it marks the first of many wonderful conversations between the two. Athena tells her not to let them determine who she is. Hen returns to the firehouse and makes a speech about them needing to see her for who she is, a proud member of the LAFD. She ends it by saying if any of them have a problem with her being there, she suggests they ask for a transfer because she is not going anywhere.
They get to a call in the pouring rain involving a party limo accident on a sketchy road near the woods. Hen has a hunch that another car must be involved when she notices something, but Girard refuses to check it out, so Hen does it herself, Chim following her. Hen turns out to be right and performs CPR on a young boy after pulling him out of the water, and he comes to. At her next shift, the firefighters congratulate Hen, even seeing there’s a new interim captain. There had been a flood of complaints against Girard since Hen started there and how he’s treated her. Hen knows that her colleagues have her back and see her for her; they had good things to say about her work. Hen thanks Chim for following her down the hill, and it was the first of many for the two best friends. Hen’s start at the 118 was rough, but she stood up for herself and followed her gut instinct, proving that she belongs.
Season 3 saw more of Hen and Karen trying to expand their family. However, not everything comes easy. At first, it seemed like they were going to be able to have six viable embryos, but they lose them all. Karen takes the loss pretty hard, and Hen does all she can to try to support her. She tells Karen that she’s not the only one feeling the loss, but Karen tells her she doesn’t know how to do what she does, just put it away. Hen says she got really attached to the idea of a new baby, but to Karen, those embryos were actually a part of her. Hen tells Athena she doesn’t know what to do. She’s angry at Karen for not doing anything; she wants to scream at her. Athena tells her she’s just worried, frustrated, exhausted, and scared. She says Karen will come back to her, but until then, Hen has her. They soon decide to become foster parents after Hen brings up the idea to Karen.
After Hen is involved in an accident with the ambulance and hitting a young woman who dies on the scene, she’s faced with an investigation conducted by the LAFD and LAPD. Mourning the loss of the woman, she contemplates returning to the LAFD and decides to take some time for herself and Karen, going to a resort. She runs into the life coach who Hen had saved years ago. The life coach tells Hen she wakes up every day grateful for her second chance; she’s grateful to God, but most of all, she’s grateful to Hen and thanks her for saving her life. Hen knows that the accident wasn’t her fault, and she knows that she saves lives every day, giving people their second chance. She decides to return to the 118.
Soon enough, though, one save completely changes Hen’s perspective when she puts her hand inside a man’s chest in order to save his life during a call. Even though most thought it was a stupid decision for her, the 118 give her her very own white coat with Dr. Wilson on it. Karen starts to suspect Hen might be cheating on her after seeing a text message from another woman and finding an address and dates on post-it notes. Hen admits that the woman she’s talking to is the doctor she met when she put her hand in the guy’s chest. She’s been thinking about going to medical school, and those dates are when she’s taking her MCATs. Hen didn’t want to tell Karen because she thought it was a crazy idea, and Karen tells her it’s not; she’d make an amazing doctor.
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Throughout 9-1-1‘s three seasons, Hen has shown how much she cares for her family and for the 118. Her relationships with Karen, Athena, and Chim show she will always be there for them and they for her. Even when things get tough with Karen, she knows they have each other. Athena is always there for a talk and to give her advice, and Chim was one of the first to really welcome her to the station. Hen is always willing to help and is so passionate about what she does, so much so she’s thinking about changing her career. Going through two big life changes, being a foster parent and possibly going to medical school, will be hard, but Hen has the support she needs to get through it.
Seasons 1 and 3 of 9-1-1 are streaming on Hulu, with season 4 expected to premiere sometime during midseason in 2021 on FOX.