Gabourey Sidibe's 'Empire' Role Originally Called for a 'Petite White Woman'

by Raphael Chestang 8:38 PM PDT, September 14, 2015
Playing Gabourey Sidibe's 'Empire' Role Originally Called for a 'Petite White Woman'

During a special Empire screening at Carnegie Hall over the weekend, actress Gabourey Sidibe revealed that her role was originally meant for someone very different from her.

"In the script it says 'Becky is a boyish, petite, white woman,'" Sidibe told the audience at the theater. "And [co-creator Lee Daniels] said, 'If you like the script, you could just ignore that and we'll figure it out.'"

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Figure it out they did. Now it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of Lucious Lyon's (Terrence Howard) former executive assistant and current head of A&R at Empire Entertainment. And Sidibe isn't the only one with a story behind their casting. Nearly the entire cast was present for a special screening of the season two premiere, where they all shared funny anecdotes from their auditions.

"I heard about Naomi Campbell -- Lee Daniels' friend who is an iconic supermodel, and I wanted to do the role," Bryshere Y. Gray said with a smile.

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Gray plays recording artist Hakeem Lyon, who gets romantically involved with Campbell's character, Camilla Marks, on the show.

"He told me to be me," said Ta'Rhonda Jones, who plays Cookie Lyon's (Taraji P. Henson) assistant. "I got comfortable in front of Lee and he was like, 'Ok, it's too much. It's too much.'"

Daniels later changed his tune.

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"After I recited the lines he said, 'You're effing brilliant. You can leave now,'" Jones said. "And I'm like, 'What? Where's Terrence Howard? I'm trying to get on his label.'"

Empire returns to Fox on Sept. 23.