Let’s face it and take a bow, the world knows that NYC is hip and that Harlem is hipper, and much, much cooler than another other borough (#humblebrag). History supports that fact with multiple trends that have sprung from the blood, sweat, tears and riotous bursts of mirth that began in this historic section of the city.
To represent that uber chic, uptown reputation, I took the “A” train and accepted the invitation to rub elbows with Hollywood royalty.
As if on cue, Academy award nominee Taraji P. Henson made her entrance into the Cosby Hotel and into pop culture moving on the strength of creating the character ‘Cookie’ in Lee Daniels and Danny Strong‘s new drama series, “Empire” which is on Fox’s 2015 lineup.
On the surface it’s about the head of a music empire Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) a former street thug turned iconic hip-hop artist and CEO of Empire Entertainment — making him the king of hip-hop. It’s also about his three sons and his intelligent and strong ex wife and their battle for his lucrative kingdom.
Cookie is that incarnated ex-wife of Lyon. Weeks away from a major IPO, she’s released from prison seven years early after spending nearly two decades behind bars. And Cookie wants what’s belongs to her — a piece of the empire.
Frankly, Ms. Henson steals the show which isn’t easy because it’s packed with “A plus” grade talent who, like Henson, tear down the halls with their performances.
The invite only event just confirmed what the executives knew when they ordered a full season (13)—it’s a hit! And that hit is, in large part because of the “take no prisoner” character Cookie.
"The prince of darkness is a gentleman! Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.”― William Shakespeare, King Lear.
Loosely “Empire” is inspired by the tragic trajectory of King Lear, in Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Lyons power is fleeting because of a terminal illness — time is running out to find the new head of the empire.
His eldest son (Trai Byers) is the CFO of the empire, and should make him the natural successor but Lyon doesn’t feel his sons’ charm.
Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is a soulful singer who chaffs under his fathers’ shame that he’s gay.
The youngest and most impulsive son Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) is a flat out spoiled. A “fame brat” who has some talent, but little discipline and no respect for hard work.
Then comes Lyon’s fierce ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). As she wants what’s rightfully belongs to her — a piece of the empire.
This is just the beginning, I think, of a successful turn for Henson on television.
When uber publicist, Anna Fuson, asked me my impressions (a standard formality for marketing) I didn’t blink nor did I hesitate with my answer:”When I grow up, I want to be Cooke. Now Fox has given me a reason to give my Netflix a break. The “Empire” begins and it’s got a Cookie for a Queen.”
"Lee (Daniels) knows how to handle me," confessed Taraji P. Henson who plays the hauntingly beautiful, resourceful and complex ex-wife. "I’m a hand full and coming from the world of theatre, I can create very big, very broad performances. Lee, you see, he knows how to pull me back in. To settle me down. To get the best from me, the best from all of us. That’s something! That’s really something, right?"
"That is something," I shared. "In my opinion that’s how you build an empire."