Pilot Scoop: Taraji P. Henson Joins Fox's Hip-Hop Empire, from Lee Daniels and Danny Strong

Get More: Casting News, Pilots

Taraji P Henson Cast Fox PilotFox’s Empire pilot has cast a person of considerable interest as its female lead: Onetime Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson.

RELATED | Pilot Season 2014: Your Complete Guide to This Fall’s (Possible) New Shows and Who’s In Them

From Lee Daniels’ The Butler scribe Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels, the prospective series is a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop and centering on music mogul Lucious Lyon (Hustle & Flow‘s Terrence Howard).

TVLine has learned that Henson will play Cookie Lyon, Lucious’ ex-wife and former business partner. She is described as a “sexy, outrageous, over-the-top force” who has spent 17 years of hard time in prison for dealing drugs, funneling the ill-gotten gains into Lucious’s then-fledging music empire. Now that she’s been released early for good behavior, she wants what’s hers.

RELATED | Taraji P. Henson Discusses Her Person of Interest Exit, the Race Issue and That OMG Kiss

Also joining the Empire family is Season 1 Mindy Project guest star Jussie (brother of Jurnee) Smollett, playing Jamal Lyon, a musical prodigy who, being a gay man, has been rejected and judged by his father Lucious since childhood.

RELATED | Person of Interest EPs Talk Taraji P. Henson’s Exit, Unscripted Kiss, ‘Messy’ Aftermath

At the time of her abrupt POI exit this past fall, Henson told TVLine, “I’m the type of actress who loves to leave people wanting more. That’s just me. I don’t think I’m there in my career yet, where I ride out a show until the wheels fall off.”



Comments (55)

  • Go Taraji! Here’s hoping Fox picks this pilot up and gives it a chance.

    Comment by lll – February 26, 2014 10:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’m delighted she’s to be in a series and I hope for her it’s a success. It sounds like a kind of Sopranos but in the Hip-Hop or Music worlds — not my kind of setting, but maybe I’ll like it if the focus is on the family dynamics and there isn’t too much hip-hop or loud music.

      Comment by cindy – February 26, 2014 02:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I guess you can guarantee that there will be a lot of loud hip-hop ‘music’ but only in unrecognizable snippets, just to give the impression without alienating the larger audience needed to keep this show afloat.

        Comment by Brian – February 26, 2014 03:58 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Why would you assume “loud hip hop music”? Because they black ?

          Comment by nate – February 26, 2014 11:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • “Hip Hop” music aka Rap Music has been around for more than forty years, dating back to The Last Poets, and Sylvia Robinson (originally part of Mickey & Sylvia) who brought us the first nationally recognized rap music of the Sugar Hill Gang. Hip Hop music is only loud when your kid turns up the volume on the music.

          Comment by Theuresa Maven – April 14, 2014 08:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This makes me happy for two reasons: 1. Taraji is a fantastic actress and I’m sure she will do great in this. and 2. Now all the people who complain about her getting written off of POI will shut up!

    Comment by Andy – February 26, 2014 10:19 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Kinda makes that whole thing about not wanting to be on a tv show because it’ll tie her down a load of crap huh? I knew there was more going on. Oh well, what’s done is done! I wish her well and hope it gets picked up.

    Comment by tp – February 26, 2014 10:19 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Did you not read the quote from her at the very bottom. It’s not that she didn’t want to be on a TV show, she says quite clearly that she doesn’t like to stay on the same show for a long period of time. But, of course, you’d rather ignore that part since it doesn’t support what you want to believe.

      Comment by Jason – February 26, 2014 10:24 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • To be fair, she did say at the time of press that she wanted to go back to movies.

        Comment by dude – February 26, 2014 11:21 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • If this is a short-season show like Under the Dome or The Following, then it would leave plenty of time for movies. Jim Caviezel spends 9 months filming Person of Interest and then crams a movie into the other 3, which doesn’t leave much personal time.

          Comment by Guest – February 26, 2014 12:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
          • When his movies are such as “The Passion of the Christ”, you need 9 months of TV work to recover and get your mind back together. I respect his work, his work ethic, his talent, and his dedication to our entertainment.

            Comment by Brian – February 26, 2014 04:01 PM PDT  
      • I don’t know where you get off coming at me with the snark but ok I’ll play along. Since I was going off of her previous interviews on various mediums, I don’t need to ignore anything. All it did was prove that they say one thing to spin it to fit the situation at one time then spin it another way for the next time. She didn’t want to do anything long term because it would stop her from doing other things i.e: movies and plays. Well when you get off one show then right on another, you could have stayed on the previous show. If this were a year or sho later I would see it differently.

        Comment by tp – February 26, 2014 12:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • year or *so later

          Comment by tp – February 26, 2014 12:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • A) So she said something different several months later. She could have just changed her mind. People do that you know. B) This new show wasn’t around when she left POI. Maybe she really did want to do movies but this role came along and she decided to jump on it. It is quite possible and highly likely that the situation just happened to change within that time period without being the result of some conspiracy.

          Comment by JKO – February 26, 2014 01:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
          • Unless one has saved a *lot* of money, one has to work to eat while waiting for the right movie to come along. Unless one is a *Super* “Box–office”- star, e.g., Clint Eastwood, one doesn’t have a choice. YOU can’t always fo what you want (as children learn very young); in the case of Hollywood, yo have to b e invited. :-)

            Comment by cindy – February 26, 2014 02:02 PM PDT  
        • Correlation is not causation. Just because she went from one TV show to another does not mean that was her original intent. Sometimes plans change. Welcome to life.

          Comment by Abigale – February 26, 2014 01:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • You are entitled to your comment, tp, but why are you so “wound up”? Take a breather.

          Comment by Liz – February 26, 2014 02:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Agreed!!

          Comment by grey – March 24, 2014 09:30 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • If you are a cynical conspiracy theorist, ABSOLUTELY.

      Comment by lauren – February 26, 2014 10:33 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Oh please, you knew nothing of the sort tp. I don’t think that it was “crap” at all. It could be that an opportunity to work with two of the industry’s hottest director and writer fell on her lap and was too good to pass up. Things like this can happen.

      Comment by Liz – February 26, 2014 02:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Not to mention ‘working’ with a man such as Terrence Howard(admit it, who is a very talented and attractive actor (so the ladies tell me))

        Comment by Brian – February 26, 2014 04:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ll definitely watch it when it airs!
    Taraji P is phenomenal, still miss her in POI.

    Comment by Khaira – February 26, 2014 10:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Yesssssss. best news ever! Was really down when she died on POI so its fantastic to see her back on tv soon.

    Comment by iamkessuki23tw – February 26, 2014 10:31 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I will definitely watch. I no longer watch POI since they killed her off. I don’t care what the bottom of this article says, she is just choosing to keep it classy. Again, when POI bring her back I will go back.

    Comment by monieet – February 26, 2014 11:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • You are definitely not the target audience for Person of Interest. “Bring her back with stupid, convoluted, soap opera-like writing and I’ll watch again” really speaks volumes.

      Comment by Guest – February 26, 2014 12:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Where there is a will there is a way! If they wanted her back that is.

        Comment by monieet – February 27, 2014 09:46 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Exactly how would POI bring her “back”, after her character died in the line of duty? A seance perhaps? Or cast a spell like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? But please, continue to live in the delusional world, SMH

      Comment by Ohbrother..... – February 26, 2014 02:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • As a faithful fan, and target audience, from the beginning of POI, Carter’s husband was not alive when the show started; he was dead. Then poof through creative writing they changed it all. He was alive, and had bad daddy issues with his kid that needed to be corrected so they could kill her off. So this “Bring her/him back with stupid, convoluted, soap opera-like writing and I’ll watch again” really speaks volumes”. Yes it does speak volumes. The writing was on the wall when Fairly Legal was cancelled and Sarah S. appeared in an episode. No matter how well, “written, well directed, entertaining show” it is, it was not a good move that would inspire me in my sad little room….
        This show will be cancelled.

        Comment by monieet – February 27, 2014 02:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Sad, sad, sad. Don’t watch a show because a character was killed off? And not because it’s a well written, well directed, entertaining show that actually made you believe in a character so much?? I’m not sure what you do in your sad little room at nights but maybe you should just ‘get a life’.

      Comment by Brian – February 26, 2014 04:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I was going to say, I thought she said in all her post-Person of Interest press that she wanted to go back to doing movies?

    Comment by dude – February 26, 2014 11:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • She did, but there’s no reason why she can’t do any movies between now, shooting the pilot and shooting the series. There’s months and months in there.

      Comment by TigerNightmare – February 26, 2014 11:33 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • And no guarantee the pilot will get picked up anyway.

        Comment by Katherine215 – February 26, 2014 11:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Plus, she just came off of doing a play in Pasadena, CA which she got rave reviews for. She is doing what she said she wanted to do–try different venues.

          Comment by StevenR – February 26, 2014 02:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Maybe she just changed her mind. It happens. Sometimes a good opportunity comes along and you just can’t let it pass you by.

      Comment by Aimee – February 26, 2014 11:56 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Taraji P. Henson never said that she asked to leave Person of Interest. She and Nolan said that it was a creative decision by him, and she had to be fine with it.

      Comment by Gabby – February 26, 2014 12:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great actress. Good for her.

    Comment by Adam – February 26, 2014 12:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m just happy it’s not another Cop/Lawyer/Doctor show! I hope it gets picked up.

    Comment by Becky – February 26, 2014 12:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m happy that she will be back on my tv screen again, the storyline plot for Empire looks very interest. I’m looking forward to see this show, I just wish it was on AMC, HBO, or Showtime because I don’t trust FOX, they like to cancel good shows.

    Comment by Sam – February 26, 2014 01:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m sorry to hear about this. I was hoping she’d find work in a new show, but I’d never watch something like this one. I’ll try out almost any new scripted show, but one about hip-hop? No, thank you, not interested..

    Comment by Sable – February 26, 2014 01:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • you must be some bible thumping white woman

      Comment by nate – February 26, 2014 02:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Nate, you’re an idiot. Of the first order. Just because someone dislikes hip hop music, this makes them a “bible thumping white woman”? My God, you’re pathetic!!!

        Comment by Brian – February 26, 2014 04:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Taraji as a bad ass ex con? Hell yes I’m in!

    Comment by Steven – February 26, 2014 01:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • damn Danny Strong has just been moving up in the world since Buffy

    Comment by nate – February 26, 2014 02:26 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I thought it was planned all along that her run on person was only a certain amount if time

    Comment by Jake – February 26, 2014 04:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So, I’ll call it.
    SPOILER ALERT: Cookie dies, leaves or disappears in the 2nd or 3rd season.

    Comment by Nell P – February 26, 2014 07:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • That’s unfortunate that you are saying that. However, Taraji did put it out there that she doesn’t like to stick with shows more than three seasons, so I do question if the show lasts longer than that, will she leave or ride until the wheels fall off?

      Comment by lll – March 8, 2014 04:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • She said 6 0r 7 not 3.

        Comment by MelodyJ – March 20, 2014 01:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • sounds fantastic with some seriously talented people involved. I’m sold

    Comment by liz – February 26, 2014 09:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • What happened to Taraji P. Henson, regarding her departure from Person of Interest, caused her to receive a lot of publicity. People are still upset by the death of Detective Carter, which happened more than three months ago. This former fan of Person of Interest wishes the actress only the best of all future endeavors, and sincerely feels she has not begun to maximize her potential. As for the drama she left……..let KARMA dictate its end.

    Comment by Taraji P. Henson Fan in Texas – February 27, 2014 02:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I stopped watching Person of Interest the day Taraji’s character got killed off, howver have you noticed that POI is showing all of the pre-November 2013 programs featuring her. The irony is that those programs are shown on Saturdays, and now on Monday’s 24 hours before the new programs are shown on Tuesday evenings, just to see which ones get the better ratings. CBS has a nasty habit of killing off black people on their shows going back to the original “Beauty and the Beast” television program. They have an even worse history of killing off women, as evidenced by removing Sasha Alexander from NCIS, and two female stars from Criminal Minds a few seasons ago, and then having to reinstate them the following season. Murdering off characters is too permanent, why not find other ways to remove the characters just in case they need to bring them back?

      Comment by Theuresa Maven – April 14, 2014 08:03 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Why can’t Ms. Henson be more Sylvia Robiinson like, someone who paid their dues, and not add the drug angle? Women, regardless of race or nationality, have always had husbands that they worked two jobs for; paid their husbands way through school; cheat on them the whole time; and then leave their wives, generally for another (younger) woman. The fact that two African American males with the strength of Daniels and Strong had to add a drug angle is extremely disappointing. If Ms. Henson’s character must do jail time, why not for insider trading? Remember, you can steal more money, and do less time for insider trading, than for drug dealin, that is, except for Bernie Madoff. The whole show will be tainted by the drug angle, and I won’t watch it — nor will my kid unless she finds a job, and starts paying the cable bill.

    Comment by Theuresa Maven – April 14, 2014 07:44 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • … And has anyone noticed from Terrence Howard’s last television gig on Law and Order:LA, that he cannot act? Oh, he’s okay in a movie where there can be a million takes in order to get one, but week to week watching him, the cracks begin to show.

    Comment by Theuresa Maven – April 14, 2014 07:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Note to Brian: regarding Jim Caviezel’s personal time: he must have a whole lot of it since the only memorble film that he has ever made was The Passion of the Christ.

    Comment by Theuresa Maven – April 14, 2014 08:14 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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