*The audience for “Empire” continues to build each week, and it’s not just black people who are watching.
Based on its social media presence alone, the audience for Fox’s breakout hit seems to be as diverse as America itself, which pleases star Taraji P. Henson to no end.
“When you get a cast that is predominantly black, then there comes this label, ‘Well, that’s a black this or a black that,’ and the danger in saying that is that you make others that aren’t black feel, ‘Oh, well, that’s just for black people.’ I don’t label things when I go to the movie,” says Henson. “I don’t go say, ‘Oh, you know, this week I want to see a white movie. I want to see that good Chinese movie.’ I go because I see the preview and it moves me to want to spend my money. I don’t care what it is. If somebody’s in love or they’re in pain, or they lost a loved one, I understand that. That has no color.”
Henson says the show’s drama “crosses all color lines…as humans, going through things that humans go through.” Her character, Cookie Lyons, has even been embraced by the likes of veteran comedic actor Denis Leary, who said at the recent TCA Press Tour: “Listen, I saw ‘Empire,’ and I gotta tell you, I thought that Cookie was f**king unbelievable. …That character is un-f**king-believable.”
Much of Cookie’s sass comes from Taraji often rewriting her scripted lines to make the character more authentic. For example, Cookie’s infamous “goat ass” quip when referring to the smell of girls’ scalps under their hair weaves…that was all Taraji.
Below, the Washington DC-born and bred actress explains how she came up with the “goat ass” line, and executive producer Danny Strong explains how writer/director Lee Daniels ended up including the line in the script. Also, co-star Terrence Howard chimes in…
“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.
Watch a “First Look” of this week’s episode, “False Imposition,” below: