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First Look At Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett In Lee Daniels' 'Empire'

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
May 9, 2014 9:04 PM
26 Comments
  • |
(L to R) Trai Byers as Andre, Taraji P. Henson as Cookie, Terrence Howard as Lucious, Jussie Smollett as Jamal and Bryshere Gray (aka rapper Yazz the Greatest) as Hakeem.

Here's your first look at Lee Daniels' hip hop/family drama series Empire, which is set up at FOX, for a 2014/2015 debut.

Terrence Howard, Taraji P. HensonJussie Smollett, Macy GrayBryshere Y. Gray (aka rapper Yazz The Greatest), Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, Malik Yoba, and Grace Gealey make up the cast.

The project, which reportedly sparked a bidding war among the 4 major broadcast networks last year, received a pilot commitment from FOX, and is described as a drama about a family-run hip-hop empire, hence the title.

Howard plays Lucious Lyon, a charismatic, but tough chief of a record label titled Empire Entertainment, which is on the verge of an IPO.

Meanwhile, Henson is Cookie Lyon, the ex-wife of Lucious Lyon, who's described as a "total badass" with a prison record (she served 17 years for dealing drugs, and used the money to help finance Lucious' growing music empire, when it was still in its early days). She's now out of prison, and has come for what's hers!

Jussie Smollett plays their son, Jamal, a fledgling rapper himself, who is also gay - something that Lucious, the father, has a problem with. 

Macy Gray will appear as Tasha, a woman having an affair with Bryshere Y. Gray's character, Hakeem Lyon, Lucious' other son, the youngest, and Lucious' favorite, and the frontrunner to take over his father's empire.

Trai Byers will play Andre, Lucious’ oldest son, described as tall and brilliant, but with a dark side, and Grace Gealey will play Anika, the head of A&R for Empire Entertainment, and Lucious’ current girlfriend.

Finally, Gabourey Sidibe will recur as Lucious’ hard-working assistant Becky, and Malik Yoba will do the same, as his longtime friend from the streets and business associate, who is now Empire Entertainment’s chairman of the board.

Let all the family drama ensue!

Lee Daniels, who is directing, is collaborating with his The Butler writer, Danny Strong, on the project, with Brian Grazer also producing.

Here's a full version of the image, courtesy of TVLine.

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26 Comments

  • Walter Harris Gavin | May 12, 2014 2:49 PMReply

    “Black people are not dark skinned white people. We came to this nation in a totally different way in a totally different context than any other people. That shaped our experiences, that shaped our attitudes. That shaped our aspirations and our needs.” - Tom Burrell
    The vast majority of TV shows and films which have "black" protagonists suffer because they don't, won't, or can't see the validity of Burrell's quote above. Most of the characters coming out of "Hollywood," whether from "black" or "white" creatives feature "dark skinned white people."

  • Donella | May 11, 2014 2:52 PMReply

    Taraji Henson's character sounds BOSS.

    The hardcore ex-dealer reminds me of Tasha Smith's character on Daddy's Little Girls (very scary).

    I predict her emergence as leader of the pack.

  • Miles Ellison | May 10, 2014 10:39 PMReply

    Fox is recycling bad UPN shows from 2003 with a generous portion of Lee Daniels' stereotype porn. This is pathetic.

  • Angry Black Woman | May 10, 2014 9:55 PMReply

    High-yellas only need apply. I'm SO over Lee Daniels and the racism BLACKS perpetuate against themselves. Let's ALL deal with that truth. Integration has FAILED. There is NO god!

  • boomslang | May 11, 2014 12:29 PM

    @ThurzdayNext | M

    He recognied that they are all black but monochromatic yellow shade of black .And this is true . The majority of African americans are dark skinned , the casting should reflect that , if it doesn't then this is racism also. To hell with Lee and all the bigoted black people like you .

    Plus half of the people in this picture cannot even act their way out of a paper bag.

  • ThurzdayNext | May 11, 2014 3:12 AM

    Fascinating. You accuse others of racism while giving yourself leeway to be racist. They're not Black enough for you?

  • Qstorm | May 10, 2014 8:51 PMReply

    The last thing we need…given past events surrounding Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Russell Simmons, hip hop is not really giving us a good look. So now the powers that be are green lighting a show around it. I have my stereotypes checklist ready to go and I won't be surprised if I check off the whole list by the end of the first two episodes.

  • ok-y | May 10, 2014 7:31 PMReply

    I'm so tired of the silly remarks coming from the peanut gallery. Please avoid posting all silly thoughts because it interrupts the progress of positive black people, who don't live in the past. If you keep feeding into the what the media projects as where we are today, you'll never learn the true meaning of forgiveness. Stop the hate amongst our race, we are different in how we think and interact with others, stop judging me because you had a nasty encounter with someone who shares my skin color.

  • BLACKMAN | May 10, 2014 6:39 PMReply

    Take a look at Taraji in that pic above.

    that alone is worthy of a look see.

  • BLACK FILMGRIOT | May 10, 2014 5:53 PMReply

    YO! Fox Network from 2001 CALLED AND WANTS IT'S DEVELOPMENT SLATE BACK! Get ready for cancellation after 4-6 episodes with a very slight potential for full season but No season Two. I saw this show before in 2003: when it was Called PLATINUM : with Ernie Hudson, Jason George, and Sticky Fingaz (Ernie was the Dad and Jason and Sticky Fingaz were the sons- There was no cracked out mom as I remember) But the STORY was the same and this was 11 years ago- This is an irrelevant story now as their is no longer a Music Industry and things like "Record Sales" anymore for their to even be an "EMPIRE" That's why there are a million versions of American Idol on TV to try and create a legitimate interest in music again like there was during the MTV generation on up until about 2001-2003. This show is about 1o years behind. I will watch it while biting my lip (just in solidarity of black people getting a check) But We Really need our black people to dig deeper and tell different stories- I mean Really, The Record Industry? - Puffy sells Vodka, 50 Cent sells Vitamin Water and Dr. Dre is about to be Hip-Hop's first Billionaire by selling electronics... So Empire needs at Least a Dodge Durango Tie-In to even compete... Damn, Anchor Man (FROM THE 70's) Beat Negroes to the punch again!

  • dennis | May 10, 2014 5:19 PMReply

    Lee Daniels is a black gay filmmaker. People like Scripttease think his including a gay character in a drama is pushing an "agenda." Well, then obviously he shouldn't include black characters, either, since that's blatant self-interest, too, by your standards. Script thinks straight people don't "yell at the top of their lungs" about their sexuality--what he or she thinks gay people do, because their existence annoys him or her--"they just keep it moving." Are you that much of a pinhead? Of course they don't have to announce they're straight, because IT'S NOT AN ISSUE of discrimination or harassment or ridicule. You're crediting people for being tasteful when they're just enjoying one benefit of not being in a minority considered inferior by many.

  • Cherokee rose | May 10, 2014 12:49 PMReply

    On the strength of my love for Taraji I'm going to give this a chance. Prior to the Sopranos airing Italians were probably up in arms about yet another portrayal of an Italian mob family yet it went on to be one of the best shows on television. The Wire is also considered by many to be one of the best things to grace the silver screen. Would i preferred this show to be based around a family of working professionals? Absolutely, but I'm going to reserve judgment.

  • Miles Ellison | May 11, 2014 12:25 PM

    Unless Lee Daniels sold his soul at the Crossroads in exchange for David Chase or David Simon's talent, people should probably be up in arms about this. Daniels isn't even close to their league. In fact, they're playing an entirely different sport.

  • boomslang | May 10, 2014 9:21 AMReply

    if that's the promo pic. I'll pass. Everyone has been airbrushed too light . Those smollett boys are not believable as actors. I can't ...

  • Gabby | May 10, 2014 8:14 AMReply

    Tambay,

    Malik Yoba is a REGULAR on "Empire", not recurring like Gabourey Sidibe. In your commentary above, you wrote that he is recurring.

  • Rashidah | May 10, 2014 8:10 AMReply

    I must agree with Say What's comment. Unfortunately we are at a time in our history where drama is selling more than actually reality. The characters must have careers which can cause more trouble, so doctors, dentist in being a scientist are out.

  • Straight Agenda | May 10, 2014 12:14 AMReply

    Of course with the producers being straight they just HAVE to have straight characters and push the straight agenda, ridiculous

  • Scripttease | May 10, 2014 1:52 PM

    Oh please!!! People ain't yelling to the top of their lungs, "I'm straight"... they just keep it moving.

  • Scripttease | May 10, 2014 1:51 PM

    Oh please!!! People ain't yelling to the top of their lungs, "I'm straight"... they just keep it moving.

  • gay agenda | May 9, 2014 11:33 PMReply

    of course with Lee Daniels being gay he just HAS to have a gay character and push the gay agenda, ridiculous

  • sharon gee | May 9, 2014 11:17 PMReply

    So excited! I was an extra in the pilot and had the previous to meet Lee Daniels, Gabby and work with Taraji, Terrance and the rest of the cast. What surreal experience to see them all in one room!

  • Say What ? | May 9, 2014 10:48 PMReply

    Couldn't have a show about a family of Black doctors and scientists or dentists or educators. Nope. Have to have rappers and hip hoppers and druggies. Yup. Let's perpetuate those stereotypes. You know........your black criminals and no good doers. Where's the basketball player?

  • scripttesase | May 10, 2014 1:53 PM

    It seems to me that is all Black Folks want to watch, that and slave films.

  • scripttesase | May 10, 2014 1:52 PM

    It seems to me that is all Black Folks want to watch, that and slave films.

  • tlewisisdope | May 9, 2014 9:51 PMReply

    Really wish this were on a cable channel. It will fail on Fox.

  • Pius | May 9, 2014 9:28 PMReply

    The name Lucious sounds badass no its own. I'll be watching just so I can that gay rapper, lol.

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