It may have been hard out there when Terrence Howard was a pimp, but the actor is having an easy time finding work these days. He had a busy 2013, appearing in no fewer than six films, including The Best Man Holiday and Prisoners. However, it was Howard’s brief stint in the all-star cast for Lee Daniels’ The Butler that brought him the biggest audience and the connection to what may be a major role on the small screen.
The actor is now set to star in a pilot of the hip hop drama Empire for FOX, which Lee Daniels will direct. Daniels will also co-write the pilot with his Butler screenwriter Danny Strong. On Empire, Howard will play Lucious Lyon, a rap record company executive. Lyon is “charismatic, tough, wise and a superstar in the music industry who oversees Empire Entertainment and is about to take the company public,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The character, as per the anti-heroes that have filled the tube for the past decade, will be loyal to his friends but willing to do anything to defend his real family and his recording community.
Empire will mark Daniels’ first foray into television, while Strong has much experience on the small screen as he was a popular character actor who starred on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls before writing original films for HBO, like Recount and Game Change. Brian Grazer will executive produce the pilot alongside Daniels, Strong and Francie Calfo.
Best known for his Oscar-nominated turn in Hustle and Flow, Howard is one of the only actors capable of moving back and forth between film and television without abandoning either medium for two long. He helmed NBC’s short-lived spinoff Law and Order: LA and he will also appear in two episodes of thriller Wayward Pines, set to air this summer from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan.
One wonders if network television is the best place for a dynamic actor like Howard and a story set in the profane, occasionally provocative world of hip-hop. However, if Daniels and Strong can fill the series with an ensemble cast a fraction as impressive as The Butler‘s, perhaps Empire has what it takes to last on the small screen.