Next to Shonda Rhimes' Thursday night TV takeover with Scandal, there's no question that Danny Strong and Lee Daniels' Empire is a hit. Currently sitting with over 14.3 million viewers, the show continues to gain new fans each week. Whether it's Lucious Lyon's cutthroat business demeanor and disdain for his sons' outrageous personalities or Cookie Lyon's I'm-that-bitch mentality, viewers can't seem to get enough of Fox's must-see hip-hopera.
With an all-star cast and ongoing celebrity appearances, Empire fans are itching for star-studded exclusives and info about the show. But what if we told you there's more to the 60-minute Wednesday night soap opera than the usual celebrity gossip? Fans may love Lucious and Cookie, but Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard have a history that some loyal viewers may not know. And according to show co-creator Daniels, Lucious and Cookie wouldn't even be sharing the screen if it weren't for Taraji. She told the producer if Howard wasn't involved, then she wouldn't be either.
So if you're a fiend for the music business drama each week, The BoomBox is here to up your Empire knowledge. Here's 10 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About 'Empire.' It may be a different network, but we're just saying, #TheMoreYouKnow.
This Isn't Terrence & Taraji's first rodeo together.
If Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson look like they share some serious chemistry on camera, chances are it's because this isn't their first onscreen project together.
The two first crossed paths on set 10 years ago while working on Paramount Pictures' Oscar-winning film, Hustle & Flow, in 2015. They collaborated through a musical soundboard, letting the world know "it's hard out here for a pimp when he tryin' to get this money for the rent."
Two months later, Empire's most captivating couple found themselves working together on another Paramount set: Four Brothers.
Wesley Snipes was originally slated to play Lucious.
Terrence Howard may the face of television's most prosperous hip-hop mogul, but had it not been for a friendly referral, Wesley Snipes would be the bad ass viewers know as Lucious Lyon.
Lee Daniels revelead his initial interest in Snipes for the role during the 2015 Winter TCA Press Tour. The Butler director let fans and media know that his pick for Empire's leading character changed after Taraji said she would only play Cookie if Terrence Howard was given the Lucious role.
"Taraji says, 'I really want to do this role with Terrence Howard,' and I was like, 'You ain't got the job yet,'" said Daniels. "And then, I was like, 'Danny [Strong], that's Cookie!'" Then Taraji jumped in to validate Daniels' story. "I was like, 'Lee, this is an incredible project. I think Cookie is amazing. I would love to play her. If you can get Terrence, I'm all about it. If not, good luck with the project!'"
Bryshere Gray was offered the role of Hakeem after a FaceTime audition.
With technology and social media on a rapid climb, it's rare to get surprised with things these days. But have you ever heard of someone acquiring an acting role via FaceTime? Well, it just might be possible that Bryshere Gray can say he's the first.
Before Empire's executive producer, Brian Grazer, would give the okay to officially bring Bryshere on as the youngest Lyon brother, Hakeem, he said he needed to see him rap on FaceTime first.
"In order to sign off, I said I want to see him on FaceTime," Grazer said.
It's no secret Gray is first a rapper then an actor, but in this case, it looks like producers needed him to prove his rhyming talents on camera -- even if it was on a 5.5-inch HD retina display.
Terrence Howard was forced to change his perm after the pilot.
According to Lee Daniels, Terrence Howard was looking to channel his inner Prince and James Brown when he arrived on set to film the show's pilot episode. He wore a teased blowout that was slicked back with a light scoop of non-stick gel. The award-winning director wasn't fond of Howard's 'do, but he told E! News he was swayed when the Chicago-born actor said the look paid homage.
"He was like, ‘Oh well, you know, it's like Prince'," said Daniels. "'He's sort of stuck in Prince land and he's sort of like James Brown, that sort of thing.' And just for a quick second, he got me," the director explained.
But Howard's power of persuasion didn't last long because Daniels quickly made Terrence change his hair style just in time for the filming of the second episode.
Cookie pulls her wardrobe right from Timbaland's wife's closet.
There's no doubt that Cookie Lyon has a fierce sense of fashion. From her designer dresses to her glammed-up footwear to luscious furs, the music mogul makes sure her style reflects her personality. But who knew the majority of Cookie's clothing comes straight from the closet of Monique Mosley. Timbaland's wife, who has serves as Empire's script consultant, lends her some of wardrobe to Taraji so she can get into character perfectly.
Monique was originally added to the show's crew by association as Timbaland's business manager, and eventually, script consultant. According to the New York Post, as Lee Daniels watched Mrs. Mosley move like a boss, all while looking flawless in the process, he proclaimed her to be the real life Cookie.
“When Lee saw me, he would say, ‘Oh my God, you are Cookie!’” Monique told The Post. “‘Your fashion sense and business savvy, it’s all Cookie.’ In his head, I was exactly how he had envisioned her character.”
As Monique watches Taraji rock items from her closet to epitomize Cookie, she wonders why she's not using more of her own clothes. “At the dinner scene at Lucious’ house where she stands up to speak, Cookie wore a Gucci dress and shoes that were my own, but that I had never actually worn,” Monique says. “Now I’m wondering why!”
Columbia released the first single to come from 'Empire' on iTunes to create a buzz.
When Fox announced its new hip-hop-based TV show, potential viewers weren't sure what to think, especially with unnamed talent involved. So to help build the show's hype and prove the music delivery would be worth viewers' while, Columbia Records released the show's first single, "No Apologies," on iTunes. “We wanted to give people an idea of what’s coming,” says Shawn Holiday, Columbia Records' senior VP of A&R.
Now, fans are reciting lyrics and watching the show's stars reach musical success on and off the camera. In fact, Jussie Smollett (Jamal) recently landed a record deal with Columbia, and is gearing up for the release of his first album.
“There will be a Jussie Smollett album," Smollett told Entertainment Weekly. "I signed to Columbia. So darling [laughs] I’m label mates with Beyonce and Adele and Barbra Streisand!"
Jim Beanz is responsible for much of the show's music.
Beanz's past work lies with megastars like Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado and Demi Lovato, so it's clear he wasn't looking to fall short with his Empire contributions. The show's greatest song to date is unquestionably "You're So Beautiful," and Jussie Smollett's voice was perfect for the production.
Taraji improvises many of her famed "Cookie" lines.
Cookie Lyon is never fails when it comes to her famed one-liners. From her classic Boo Boo Kitty statement to the unforgettable "If you want Cookie's nookie, then ditch the bitch" zinger, her character knows how to go straight for the jugular. But the best part is, the inspiration for Cookie's slick tongue comes straight from Taraji P. Henson herself.
According to Danny Strong, "[Taraji] will improv stuff and it'll be hysterical."
"When I'm in the moment, those lines just come," says Taraji. "I love it! [Terrence Howard] loves to come to me for one-liners, too, 'cause he knows I'm really good at it."
'Empire' marks Timbaland's first work on a TV series.
From Jay Z to Justin Timberlake, Timbaland has placed his magical music touch on a number of projects over the years. But the talented super producer has never been involved with a television series -- until now.
As Lee Daniels holds no qualms in sharing his lack of hip-hop knowledge with fans, he knew he wouldn't have to worry about the scores added into the show if he found a way to make sure Timbaland was involved. So, the Hollywood director made a call to the Virginia-born hitmaker, and three days later, magic was made.
“In three days, he gave me some music that was just astounding, and I said ‘Done’,” says Daniels.
With the music handled, the newly acclaimed television visionary can worry about other things like whether or not Raven Symone will ever make another baby mama drama show appearance.
Jussie Smollett is Jurnee Smollett's big brother.
If Jamal Lyon's real name, Jussie Smollett, looks or sounds a bit familiar, there's a reason. When it comes to the Smolletts, acting is definitely a family business.
Jussie is the older brother of Jurnee Smollett-Bell. She's had her fair share of roles in Hollywood over the years. She's remembered by many for several childhood roles including Denise, Little Richard's niece on the hit '90s shows Full House. She's also starred on Hangin With Mr. Cooper and as Eve Batiste in the 1997 film Eve's Bayou. In 2013, she landed the lead in Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.
This brother-sister duo are keeping it all in the family when it comes to their talents.