Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Cookie From Empire Spills The Beans On Your New Favourite TV Show

Cookie From Empire Spills The Beans On Your New Favourite TV Show

The Debrief: The highest rated show in the US is coming over here and we spoke to it's star Taraji P. Henson

If you’re between telly shows to binge on at the moment then thank your lucky stars because Empire is just about to start on E4 and blow your tiny mind. The show, which just wrapped up it’s first season in the US, was one of the most watched shows over there with nearly 18 million tuning in for the finale.

So what’s it about? Think Nashville mixed with King Lear and set in the hip hop world. Terrance Howard stars as Lucious Lyon, a hip hop mogul and CEO of Empire Entertainment; the music industry’s biggest record label. He’s got a kick ass girlfriend, billions of dollars and fancy apartments and yachts coming out of his arse. Now though, Lucious must decide which of his three sons should take over the reigns of the family business. If that’s not dramatic enough for you, let’s chuck his ex-wife Cookie into the mix; fresh out of jail after 17 years, she’s coming for Lucious and her slice of the fortune.

We spoke to the ACE Taraji P. Henson who plays Cookie a few days after she presented Saturday Night Live (THAT’S how big the show is over there) and asked her about homophobia in the hip hop world, black casting on TV and who the characters of Empire are really meant to be IRL…

Hello Taraji! Tell me about Cookie. I would certainly not mess with her
Cookie is pretty much the moral compass of the show. She’s also every woman. I mean, she’s a mother, she’s a wife, she’s a friend, she’s a sister. She loves really hard and that’s probably her biggest flaw. She is uncompromising, she’s not afraid to speak the truth, she has nothing to lose. She spent 17 years in the can – she’s not afraid of nothing or nobody.

I sometimes channel her IRL if I’m feeling a bit scared
Yeah, you know how Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce? Well Cookie is my alter ego. I’ve had so many people hit me on Twitter and be like ‘Oh I had this board meeting today, I wish I could have walked in there like Cookie’, you know?

And her wardrobe looks like a lot of fun to wear
Oh that’s the best part - I get to play dress up and I don’t have to go broke doing it.

Do they make you give everything back?
Yeah, but there was this one Alaia black cat suit they gave to me so I was like ‘YESSSS THANK YOUUU!’

Are the characters based on real life famous people?
Well I’ve heard Terrence say that that Luc is a bit of Suge Knight, and Jay Z, you know, all the power top hip hop guys who have been the presidents of their own labels. So yeah, it’s probably like a mash up of all of them.


Your son in the show Jamal is gay, how important was it for you guys to try and tackle homophobia in the hip hip world?
There’s a scene where Lucious puts Jamal in a trash can and that actually happened to the creator Lee Daniels. Before Empire came along, no one was really dealing with that subject matter like that. That’s why kids are killing themselves, because they’re afraid that they’ll get rejected by their family.
I’m just glad to be part of a project where we are lifting the carpet off of this dirt, lets deal with it, lets talk about it.

This is one of the first mainstream dramas that got nearly entirely an black cast. Why’s it taken until 2015 for this to be a thing?
I’ve been told my entire career: black shows or movies or black women don’t do well overseas, but yet here I am, because the people wanted me. I’m here because people want me here, so there you go, there goes that myth Hollywood.

Who do people need to keep an eye on as the show goes on?
Oh God, everybody. Everybody. Someone already died. Another person’s going to die and you’re not gonna see it coming. Somebody goes to jail… Oh my God there’s so many twists. By the time you get to the finale you’re going to need a shot of some very stiff liquor – not wine. It’s not a wine show, it’s a woooah can’t believe that happened give me another shot!

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

Tags: TV We\'re Unashamedly Watching, TV That Matters, TV