“Empire” is at a new time on Wednesdays, on FOX.
This season Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actor, director and producer Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Arrival, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) will guest-star in a multi-episode arc on Empire, beginning this fall on FOX. Whitaker will play “Uncle Eddie,” a charismatic music icon and bonafide hitmaker, who gave an unknown Lucious (Terrence Howard) his first radio airplay. Decades later, Eddie steps up for Lucious at a critical moment during his rehabilitation, and a grateful Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) invites him to produce a song in celebration of Empire Entertainment’s 20th anniversary.
Returning this season is veteran actor Taye Diggs, who we caught up with about working with longtime friends Terrence & Taraji. Joining this season in a full-time capacity is newcomer Terrell Carter ,playing Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal’s love interest, and member of the Dubois family. Check out our interview after the jump.
The Knockturnal: Terrell, you are new to the crew. How are you adjusting?
Terrell Carter: Being in the Dubois family is the most amazing part to me. I’m able to work with people that have been in the business for years. The first day, it wasn’t like the first day of school for me, but it was, my gosh, I can’t believe the first day I’m working with them.
Taye Diggs: Were you nervous?
Terrell Carter: I was nervous. I wasn’t nervous at first. This is when I became nervous, before they said, “Action.” Phylicia Rashad … Her first line was to me. She just stared me right in my eyes to get ready for them to say, “Action.” I just kept going … I just kept looking down like, “Can you just look away?”
Taye Diggs: She’s such a powerful presence.
Terrell Carter: She is. In her everyday life just walking, just breathing, she is a powerful presence. Yeah, adjusting has been … It’s more surreal than even adjusting. It’s more of just an honor than trying to fit in.
The Knockturnal: I think I underestimated the Dubois family and I think from the season family you all are just getting started. What is going to be the most shocking for viewers this season when it comes to the family battle between the Dubois family and the Lyons?
Taye Diggs: I think how calculated this family is. I think, like you said, most people, they slept on us. This season you realize how deeply they were affected by what the Lyons did.
Terrell Carter: Yeah, because I think that they’re coming in ways that are not just stereotypical “he did this, she did this” … There are some things that when I read them in the script I just sit back like, “I cannot believe that they thought that this is what it’s going to be.” There are so many twists that you’re going to see. There are some things that even happen with my character and Jamal that I couldn’t believe.
Taye Diggs: Without batting an eyelash.
Terrell Carter: Yeah. That to me was mind-blowing.
The Knockturnal: Right. What would you guys say was the biggest fear in tackling your roles on the show?
Taye Diggs: Normally, I would say that I feel so grateful to be on the show. I’ve been in the business for a while, but there was no fear, it was just excitement. Lately these past couple of days I’ve had courtroom scenes and the dialogue is snappy and quick. For the first time in a while, just because we are surrounded by such highly esteemed actors, I got some butterflies. I wanted to make sure I was on point. It felt good, it was refreshing to go on set and have to check yourself. Make sure that I was on point. I haven’t had to do that in a while. Phylicia Rashad, you know what I mean? Normally, because with television you can take after take, it helps when you are nervous because you know you have another shot, but you want to make that count.
Terrell Carter: Right. I don’t want to be the one that we’re taking take after take because I’m not getting it right. I’ll say there was a couple changes made to one scene with Terrence and I, it was my first scene with Terrence, and I was given all of these words that were … All of these medical terms and they were all in a way that almost seemed like-
Taye Diggs: On the day of.
Terrell Carter: The day of.
Taye Diggs: Normally a CAT could take a week
Terrell Carter: Every time I looked at him and it was my turn to say this at first, I just was like, “I can’t remember none of these lines.” Then you started getting all the anxiety. For him to just stop and say, “This is what you’re going to say, let’s do this. Why can’t you just say this? That’s so much easier.” I’m looking, this guy who’s a veteran, who could just sit there and say to the director, “What the hell is he doing?” He didn’t do that at all, he helped me get through something. He’s like, “We’re in this together.” The first day that I got there he walked up to me and said, “I love the energy that you bring to the show and I hope you stay around.” They don’t have to do that.
The Knockturnal: How is the creative process in terms of not only acting, but preparing the characters and discussing with the creator? Is that collective group work?
Terrell Carter: For me the person in the beginning that really sat me down, we talked about it, it was Phylicia Rashad. I was getting ready to go, and I leaned over because I was scared to say hi to her. I finally said, “I just want to get an idea of how our relationship is just so I can be clear, but not to bother you.” She says, “Darling,” I said, “What’s our backstory?” They hadn’t written all the back-story. She says, “We’re going to make our own backstory and that’s how we’re going to understand who we are.” She explained the entire family and why she is who she is and who her father was and who the people she was when she was a little girl and how she watched and why she can be so nasty but do it so eloquently.
The Knockturnal: It’s like a family reunion a little bit for you, because you’re working with Terrence, Taraji, all these people that you worked with for years. What is it like when you all go to these sets now? You all have been on sets together for 20 years. What is that like to work with family?
Taye Diggs: It’s a mix because, on one hand, this is the biggest show I’ve ever worked on. There’s that, there’s Phylicia Rashad, there’s all the musicians. Then, on the other hand, it’s my school chums that have made it. It’s really cool to be working with them, but not only am I working with them, we all can look at each other and be like, “Yo, look where you are now.” I’m so proud of Taraji. I’ve literally grown up with her, working alongside her. To actually see her progression is amazing.