Nashville and Empire are two of our guest host’s favorite shows, so we put him on the phone with leading ladies Connie Britton and Taraji P. Henson to talk wildest moments, favorite outfits, and who they’re kissing next.
What have your wildest moments as Cookie Lyon and Rayna Jaymes on the shows been so far?
TARAJI P. HENSON: Cookie keeps topping her wildest moment! But I guess the wildest moment so far was when she punched Boo Boo Kitty in the face.
CONNIE BRITTON: Every moment is a wild moment, but one that was out-there was when I was in a coma. We shot in a real ICU ward in a working hospital, and I felt horrible, because we were in the way of people that had genuine problems—like real people in comas as opposed to my silly pretend coma!
How do you guys get into character? Taraji, do you put on a fur? Connie, do you listen to Taylor Swift?
TARAJI: Hair and makeup. Once I get that on, Cookie comes alive! I just get into it. I’ve heard some actors stay in character and I don’t judge, but I have to live in between takes. I can’t stay in the character.
CONNIE: At this point we’re in season 4, so it’s just sort of there. But we did just start up shooting this season, and I had a couple of moments like, “What accent is this? Who am I doing again?” But being in Nashville, I’m surrounded by all these people, so…
What was your first time singing on TV like?
CONNIE: Oh my God, petrifying! But it was such a huge rush. The level of adrenaline and terror raging through my body was unprecedented. But we do go into a studio to record the songs live, so by the time we’re shooting we are basically lip-synching our songs.
TARAJI: It was kind of scary because I don’t sing. I’m not Jussie [Smollett]. But I kind of like the rawness of it. It actually came out okay. I’m always a little nervous when asked to sing because it’s not my first talent. I’ll do it if the role requires it.
Do you have a favorite outfit on your show?
TARAJI: You haven’t seen it yet! It’s from the Moschino 2016 line, and it’s red leather with all these Moschino chains on it. My God! It also has a matching purse.
CONNIE: It was a blue jewel-encrusted bustier and blue leather pants from season 1, when I performed with Brad Paisley on the CMAs. But anything with sequins and rhinestones is gonna be a fave.
You know I’m also obsessed with hair. Connie, how long does it take to do yours? And what will Cookie’s hair look like this season?
CONNIE: I have an amazing person doing it, but it will never take me more than 45 minutes to an hour from wet hair to having it camera-ready.
TARAJI: You will be seeing a lot more Cookie hair moments. We’re incorporating blond, and not just in the flashbacks but in present time.
So who are some of your favorite Hollywood queens?
CONNIE: Elisabeth Moss. I think Lizzy Caplan is badass. I watch Masters of Sex when I can. Julianna Margulies is the epitome of grace and strength.
TARAJI: Joan Collins, of course. Diahann Carroll, honey.
Any dream musical guest stars?
CONNIE: Bonnie Raitt is my number one. She’s the queen.
Let’s talk boys. Who are you each kissing this season?
CONNIE: There’s the Deacon thing. Chip Esten is nothing to shake a stick at. He’s dreamy. I’m not supposed to talk about whether he lives or dies.
TARAJI: Adam Rodriguez is up next on the menu.
Your son Andre Lyon [Trai Byers] is also so hot.
TARAJI: He is hard to look at, isn’t he? It’s a shame he’s my son. Wouldn’t that be a scandal? But he’s a damn good actor. I scream his praises every time.
I scream his praises for his ass every time.
TARAJI: It is a high boot. I get to look at that every day.
How about fave guest stars?
CONNIE: Michiel Huisman. He played Liam. I liked him because he was hot, period. And because he is one of the nicest yet manliest men I’ve ever met.
TARAJI: Courtney Love. It’s an actor’s dream when you trust the actor so much you start to improvise. She can go from brassy to vulnerable in zero seconds. Wherever I went, she was ready. I love to fight with her. It was amazing.
Is she back this season?
TARAJI: I’m sure of it.
You shoot in Nashville and Chicago. Do you like being outside the New York/L.A. bubble?
CONNIE: I do, especially if you’re doing a show about that place, which I’ve done twice, for Friday Night Lights and Nashville. It makes a huge difference.
TARAJI: I love it because I love my condo. I’m right on the lake, and I’m looking down at the beach with the people and the boats in the water. I love it.
If Cookie and Rayna were Real Housewives, what would their taglines be?
TARAJI: Cookie’s tagline would be “The street ain’t made for everybody. That’s why they made sidewalks.”
CONNIE: Rayna’s tagline would be “I’m just gonna sing while I scrub this toilet.”
What would an Empire/Nashville crossover be like if, say, Cookie took over Rayna Jaymes’ career?
TARAJI: She would turn her into a star, honey.