Empire is full to the brim with talent, but one of its breakout players almost missed her chance at stardom. Ta'Rhonda Jones, the ever-lovable assistant Porsha on the hit Fox show, was working for a nursing home and job hunting when the time came for her to audition for Empire. But, she didn't think she was auditioning for a show; she thought Terrence Howard was starting his own record label and she was going to be a rap star.
After her audition, she still wasn't sure. "I was like, 'What? Where's Terrence Howard? I'm trying to get on his label," she said at the Empire season two premiere event. "I didn't know what was going on…I'm telling y'all, I didn't know nothing."
Prior to landing the dream gig, Ta'Rhonda was an assistant director of nutritional services at a nursing home. "I was going through a rough time in my life…I was going through a rough time at work where I was off work for a while," she said. She was up for a new hospital job and Empire at the same time.
"When I was going to quit my job, I didn't know which job to take," she said. "I had gotten a job offer from a hospital and I got the role on Empire, but I didn't know which one to take. I said, 'Lord Jesus, I've never acted before, but if this role is for me, I need a sign and I need it now.' Now what people don't know is my brother was killed in April; he was shot down. I keep a watch of his and when I said, 'I need a sign and I need it now,' the watch went off and I'm here today because I went with that sign."
Still, she didn't see the sign right away.
"I kept saying what is that noise…it never dawned on me that it was that sign because I just broke down in tears and then maybe 10 minutes later I'm like, 'Um, Jesus I'm waiting on my sign,' and then it dawned on me that was my sign and so I took the role and the rest is history," she said.
Ta'Rhonda's Empire boss, Taraji P. Henson, said she was born to play the role. "[Lee Daniels] sent me a video of somebody he wanted and I was stuck on that person and when you walked in I was like, 'That's her, that's Porsha'…I'm so glad that was your journey," Taraji said.
Empire season two premieres Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 9 p.m. on Fox.