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

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.”

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  1. lll says:

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

    • cindy says:

      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.

      • Brian says:

        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.

        • nate says:

          Why would you assume “loud hip hop music”? Because they black ?

        • Theuresa Maven says:

          “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.

  2. Andy says:

    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!

  3. tp says:

    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.

    • Jason says:

      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.

      • dude says:

        To be fair, she did say at the time of press that she wanted to go back to movies.

        • Guest says:

          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.

          • Brian says:

            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.

      • tp says:

        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.

        • tp says:

          year or *so later

        • JKO says:

          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.

          • cindy says:

            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. :-)

        • Abigale says:

          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.

        • Liz says:

          You are entitled to your comment, tp, but why are you so “wound up”? Take a breather.

        • grey says:


    • lauren says:

      If you are a cynical conspiracy theorist, ABSOLUTELY.

    • Liz says:

      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.

      • Brian says:

        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))

  4. Khaira says:

    I’ll definitely watch it when it airs!
    Taraji P is phenomenal, still miss her in POI.

  5. iamkessuki23tw says:

    Yesssssss. best news ever! Was really down when she died on POI so its fantastic to see her back on tv soon.

  6. monieet says:

    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.

    • Guest says:

      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.

    • Ohbrother..... says:

      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

      • monieet says:

        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.

    • Brian says:

      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’.

  7. dude says:

    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?

  8. Adam says:

    Great actress. Good for her.

  9. Becky says:

    I’m just happy it’s not another Cop/Lawyer/Doctor show! I hope it gets picked up.

  10. Sam says:

    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.

  11. Sable says:

    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..

  12. Steven says:

    Taraji as a bad ass ex con? Hell yes I’m in!

  13. nate says:

    damn Danny Strong has just been moving up in the world since Buffy

  14. Jake says:

    I thought it was planned all along that her run on person was only a certain amount if time

  15. Nell P says:

    So, I’ll call it.
    SPOILER ALERT: Cookie dies, leaves or disappears in the 2nd or 3rd season.

    • lll says:

      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?

  16. liz says:

    sounds fantastic with some seriously talented people involved. I’m sold

  17. Taraji P. Henson Fan in Texas says:

    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.

    • Theuresa Maven says:

      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?

  18. Theuresa Maven says:

    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.

  19. Theuresa Maven says:

    … 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.

  20. Theuresa Maven says:

    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.