taraji-hensonTaraji P. Henson is reuniting with her Hustle & Flow co-star Terrence Howard for another drama project set in the hip-hop world, this time in TV. Person Of Interest alumna Henson has been tapped as the female lead opposite Howard in Esmolletmpire, Fox‘s drama pilot from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Also cast in the project, written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, is Jussie Smollet. Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. Henson plays Cookie Lyon, Lucious’ ex-wife and former business partner.

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She is a sexy, outrageous, over-the-top force who has spent 17 years of hard time in prison for dealing drugs – money she funneled directly to Lucious’ fledging music empire. Now she’s been released early for good behavior and she wants what’s hers. Smollet plays Lucious and Cookie’s middle son Jamal, a sensitive soul and musical prodigy who could easily rise to superstardom if he desired. As a gay man, he’s been rejected and judged by his father since childhood – which may explain why he steers clear of fame and prefers to keep his music “pure.” 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing Empire, which is geared toward series per Fox’s new development model.

Oscar nominee Henson, repped by Vincent Cirrincione Associates and attorney Neil Meyer, is wrapping up the lead in Above The Fold at Pasadena Playhouse. Smollett, repped by Vincent Cirrincione JKA Talent Agency, recently guested on Fox/20th TV’s The Mindy Project.