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empire taraji p henson terrence howard

Since its premier, FOX’s Empire has seen its ratings sky rocket, and no doubt the show has star Taraji P. Henson to thank for that.  Henson’s character, the no holds-barred, sharp-tongued, “I wish a m____ would” Cookie, is truly the series’ heart and soul.  Love her or hate her, Cookie is the best thing on television; the character’s outrageous and slightly late-90s inspired wardrobe, full of spandex and animal prints, has already become the must-have Halloween costume for 2015.

But it almost didn’t happen.  In a recent TIME interview, Henson revealed that she almost declined the role because, when she first read the script, her co-star Terrence Howard hadn’t been cast.  “If it couldn’t be Terrence Howard, I didn’t want to do it. That’s why I almost turned it down,” she told TIME’s Nolan Feeney.  Henson’s confession squashes the rumors that she initially almost turned down the part because of the homophobia storyline; Cookie’s and Lucious’ middle son, Jamal (played by Jussie Smollett), is openly gay, which is a serious issue for Howard’s Lucious.  Cookie, however, is scheming to use Jamal’s sexuality as his ticket to superstardom.

Empire airs Wednesday nights on FOX.