How Did the Stars of Empire Become Famous?

One of the biggest shows on TV, Empire has become a bona-fide phenomenon. The hip-hop family drama consistently scores big in the ratings, and is a frequent topic of conversation at office water coolers across the country. Even though they’re superstars now, the leads of Empire used to be aspiring actors just like you! Keep reading to find out how Lucious and Cookie got their big breaks.

Terrence Howard


The Chicago-born, Cleveland-raised star always knew he wanted to be an actor. After leaving home at age 16, Howard moved to New York City and started studying chemical engineering. But the allure of the screen pulled him back in, and a chance audition for The Cosby Show started him on a path to stardom!

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Taraji P. Henson


Henson first started seriously pursuing acting while attending Howard University, working as a singing waitress on a Washington D.C. cruise ship. After school, Henson moved to L.A. and first found success in the film Hustle and Flow for which she was nominated for an Oscar!

Jussie Smollett


One of the most experienced members of the cast, Smollett started performing as a child as a way to stay busy during summer vacation. This led to a role in The Mighty Ducks! After taking a break, Smollett returned to acting in 2012  with roles in The Skinny, Revenge, and The Mindy Project before making his big break on Empire.

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Trai Byers


A Kansas City native, Byers studied acting at American Musical and Dramatic Academy in L.A. and the prestigious Yale School of Drama. He made his debut on the soap opera All My Children and has been professionally acting ever since. Fun Fact! Byers attended middle school with singer Janelle Monae.

Bryshere Gray


Before Empire, Bryshere Gray had never thought to be an actor. Gray came up as a rapper in Philadelphia under the name Yazz The Greatest. He continues to rap in addition to his acting career and has even opened for 2 Chainz and Fabolous.

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The stars of Empire prove that there is no one true path to stardom. As long as you don’t give up on your dreams, there’s no limit to how high you’ll soar! Check out all of our Empire auditions and casting calls here at ClaimFame. 

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