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