Empire season 2: Taraji P. Henson on Vivica A. Fox, plus Lee Daniels talks writers' room representation
The actress also tells EW that it’s 'bittersweet' to know that she might be the first African-American woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmys
Family drama can’t be too far behind for Cookie when Vivica A. Fox comes to guest on Empire season 2, but Taraji P. Henson can’t wait for the “mind-blowing” experience. EW caught up with the Emmy nominee at Carnegie Hall in New York City for Fox’s Empire live stream event, and she expressed her excitement to have the Kill Bill star as her onscreen sister.
“I’m very excited about that,” she said. “I mean, I watched Vivica before I even got into the business. And she’s always been one that I’ve looked up to, like, ‘God, I want to be able to do what she does.’ So, to be able to work with the person who you’ve admired for so long, it’s just mind-blowing.”
EW broke the news that Fox will portray Cookie’s sister, and executive producer Ilene Chaiken teased that “Cookie’s other family members are troublesome to say the least.”
Though before this clashing of titans commences when Empire returns on Sept. 23, Henson has one more thing on the docket: The Primetime Emmys. The actress said how “amazed” she is to be nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama for this year’s ceremony, but “it’s sort of bittersweet.”
Why bittersweet? “Because here we are in 2015, and we’re still saying things like, ‘First African-American,’ ‘First woman this.'” While Isabel Sanford became the first African-American to win the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy in 1981 for The Jeffersons, the Drama category still hasn’t passed this milestone. This could be the year, however, as Henson and Viola Davis (for How To Get Away With Murder) are up for the honor.
“I just pray to God … and it’s not even about me. I hope Viola wins. I hope I win,” Henson continued. “Just so we can get past this and we don’t have to say in 2020 or 2030 or 3000, ‘The first’ — I mean, come on, really,” she said, laughing.
Empire creator and executive producer Lee Daniels was also on hand for Saturday night’s event, and he too is looking beyond this nomination. “I’ve been doing this for over three decades now, and never in my life would I ever … My kids are [in their late teens], and they take it for granted. You know? They just assume everything is cool, that we have so many black people, people of color, working behind the scenes as writers. This is unprecedented, it’s unheard of.”
He continued, “People talk about the numbers, but what they don’t talk about is that the [writers’] room is 99 percent black. The 13 people who are actually writing are black people. And then I get in trouble [and people say], ‘Well, he’s a racist for thinking that.’ I’m not. My partner is white. My best friends are white. My ex-partner is white. The godparents of my kids are white. It’s not that. It’s just that what happens is that, for so many years, there has not been a voice of authenticity. I think that’s what the success of this show is about. … I’m happy that’s been happening more than Cookie’s nomination or the numbers. That’s what I’m most excited about in my life; that I’m able to see that in my life.”
With reporting from Megan Daley.
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