Lee Daniels Wants To Expose Homophobia In ‘Empire’

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Empire’ Cast Tackles Diversity, ‘Dynasty’ and Terrence Howard During Presser Victory Lap.

The top brass at Fox may not have seemed prepared as I’d expected for my question Saturday about the problematic past of Terrence Howard, the star of their new hit “Empire,” but by the time the actor himself met with reporters late in the day, he appeared more than ready.Television audiences are looking for diversity on-screen, if “Empire’s” ratings are any indication. (Along with the success this season of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Black-ish.”) “Shows with people of color can make money,” said star Taraji P.LOS ANGELES – “Empire” star Terrence Howard said his past arrests for domestic abuse allegations were a byproduct of his rough-and-tumble upbringing and “not knowing how to deal with frustration.” Howard was pressed Saturday during the Television Critics Assn. press tour on his past history of arrests and allegations of violence by his former wife, among other women. The creator of Fox’s prime-time soap “Empire” said he wants to “blow the lid off homophobia” in the African-American community with a depiction of the show’s lead character’s hostile relationship with his gay son.

So when another reporter offered him the opportunity to respond to issues of what he referred to as Howard’s “legal background,” the actor quipped, “You mean me as a lawyer?” “What’s wonderful about life — there’s this book by Eckhart Tolle called ‘The Power of Now,’ and it explains all of these solutions to a lot of life’s bigger problems. In an era where more and more viewers are moving away from watching live TV in favor of time-shifting or online viewing, Fox’s new hip-hop drama not only debuted strong, it actually grew in its second week. The series had the unusual feat of growing in viewership from its premiere week to its second, compelling Fox to quickly give the go-ahead to a second season.

Showrunner Ilene Chaiken, who assembled a diverse writers’ room to help lend authenticity to the storytelling, says she welcomes any changes the show has on the culture. “If ‘Empire’ influences anybody, fabulous,” Chaiken told Variety. “I hope that nobody needs to be influenced — it’s just obvious that this is how we should make television. The cast and production team, which flew in that morning from a late-night shoot in Chicago, was applauded like the music icons they’re playing by Fox brass in the back of the room. During the show’s first episode, Lyon learns he has a fatal disease and is battling with his just-released-from-jail wife over which of their three sons will take over their music empire.

And this present moment, to have a show that’s being held as a beautiful, breakthrough piece, having a wonderful opportunity to have this cast, I don’t think they took any of that stuff [from his past] into consideration,” said Howard, who’s won good reviews as music mogul Lucious Lyon, a homophobic father of three with a violent streak and a secret illness. The two previously worked together on the 2013 film “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” The off-screen behaviour of actors has come under heightened scrutiny in the wake of the mushrooming scandal of rape and drugging allegations levied against Bill Cosby by more than 20 woman during the past few months.

Henson, referring to both Empire’s success and the warm reception for other diverse series. “When you can make money, people are interested.” Fox is certainly interested. At a time the movie industry is under fire for its commitment to diversity — only white actors received nominations when last week’s Oscar contenders were announced — “Empire” is seen as making strides in that area. And so once you look at what the judges have said, there’s been no criminal charges ever filed against that person or anything like that, so you have to go by what the judge is saying,” he said. “But you got to give people a chance to grow from anything that happens. He’s been so hard working and he’s just been a great partner to us, so our experience with Terrence has been excellent. “We cast Terrence because our executive producers—Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer—felt that he was the best actor for that particular role,” she continued. “Our experience with him at that point was being fans of the films he’s done in the past. Henson, the actress who plays Lucious’ wife Cookie, said entertainment executives take notice when shows dominated by minority cast members make money.

It wasn’t part of the conversation when we cast him… The network executives who have interacted with him have had nothing but a great experience, so it just didn’t come into the conversation.” Actually, Howard wasn’t the first choice for the role. I’ve grown so much from anything that’s happened in the past.” Of course, Howard is far from the only celebrity with headlines in the last decade over various allegations, especially with the recent news about Bill Cosby, even going back to Woody Allen. Asked what he wanted to say to critics in that regard, Howard responded, “The only person that can really find the judgement is the judge in the court–or God at the end of the day.

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