Empire almost had a different leader.
Since its debut two weeks ago, the Fox hip-hop drama has become a cultural phenomenon, and has delivered the network its highest rating for a new series in years. (The network has already renewed it for a second season!) But the central role of Lucious Lyons almost went to someone other than Terrence Howard. And it's a big name!
And during the show's panel at the 2015 Winter TCA Press Tour, creator, executive producer and director Lee Daniels revealed the actor he originally approached to take on the role of the hip hop mogul.
So when did he change his mind? When leading lady (and breakout star) Taraji P. Henson suggested (or kind of demanded!) Howard, her Hustle & Flow co-star, for the role of her character Cookie's ex-husband.
"Taraji says, I really want to do this role with Terrence Howard,' and I was like, 'You ain't got the job yet,'" Daniels recalled. "And then, I was like, 'Danny [Strong], that's Cookie!'"
Henson continued, "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!'"
But Daniels, who had just worked with Howard onThe Butler, said he didn't think the actor was interested in doing a TV show. "I didn't think he was going to do it."
While Howard admitted he was "scared to death" of the project after he read the script for the first episode, which finds Lucious shoving his then five-year-old son into a garbage can for wearing his mother's high heels, "but I remembered how frightened I was when I was doing Hustle & Flow and Taraji would hold up, create the entire scene by looking at me and believing in me.
He continued, "When you're around people who challenge you to go higher than you can, to sing better than you've ever thought you could sing, and you realize that you can reach a high place, which Fox has asked us to do with this show. Not only entertaining people, but change the persona of what's happening in the world, you can't help but jump on board and say, 'I'm in, win or fail.' I'm so thankful, because it has changed my life."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.