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Empire finishes its first season on Wednesday with a two-hour block of power (read our predictions of what we expect). When the show returns returns you can put co-star Taraji P. Henson squarely in the "nope" corner on whether or not the hip-hop serial needs to use the n-word for authenticity's sake (we agree).
Star Terrence Howard said recently in an Entertainment Weekly cover story that he believes the show needs it for authenticity, but who knows if he has a broader view of that statement now—particularly when just last week viral videos and emails are popping up with a whole new generation of folks gleefully dropping that word into exclusionary brotherhood chants and emails that has sparked outrage.
Henson, meanwhile, was the star of an early finale screening and Q&A held at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles last night. She mentioned that she did a recent interview with members of the foreign press and none of them framed their questions as Empire being a black television show. Henson was excited to be a part of a television show with an almost all black principal cast, and answer to more basic questions about the drama.
“Love and hate and loss has no color. For me, that’s what I was hoping this show would do,” she said before shouting, “Martin Luther King, we made it to the mountaintop!” Variety noted that the sold out theater roared in response to her enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm and upward movement aside, the fact that TMZ ambushed Henson about whether or not it's necessary to use the n-word on Empire proves that the mountaintop isn't where we're at as a society. More like the summit.