Fox Is ‘Empire’ Building Featuring Standout Taraji P. Henson

Ambitious and vengeful: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson)
Ambitious and vengeful: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson)

Winter’s breakout hit is a throwback soap pitched as “black Dynasty,” and viewers are watching. It’s this season’s top-rated newcomer among young-adult viewers, and ratings for Wednesday’s second episode climbed from the show’s premiere, a rare feat.

The show stars Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon, a dying hip-hop music mogul, who wants to bequeath his business to one of three sons. But along comes ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), fresh out of a 17-year jail stint, to fight her way back into the family business. She latches onto Jamal, their gay son, after Lucious is ashamed by his interest in coming out.

Co-creator Danny Strong “wanted to have someone who was running this family but doing it in an iron-fisted way,” while addressing social issues and “attacking homophobia in a mainstream genre.”

“It’s life, with a little bit of camp, so we can laugh,” said pajama-clad co-creator Lee Daniels (The Butler). “Don’t y’all miss Dynasty?” he asked writers at the Television Critics Association.

“The big hair, the catfights? Don’t you miss that?” says Henson, the breakout star, who says her performance was inspired by Bette Davis and Diahann Carroll rather than Joan Collins.


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Gary Levin

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