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‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Somewhat ‘Takes Credit’ for Bringing Rumer Willis to Show

Variety logo Variety 3/21/2017 Chelsea Battle
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“To be in the Lyon’s den is a lot to take on,” Serayah McNeill said during Monday night’s Q&A panel for Fox’s hit drama, “Empire.”

If the Season 3 spring premiere event, hosted at the Grove, was any indication of what’s to come this year, her critique is probably an understatement. The show was decked with plenty of hair pulling, sibling rivalry, and a star-studded cast including newcomer Rumer Willis.

“She’s just dope,” gushedJussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon, about the actress. “I say this all the time; I’m not going to take credit for this, but…,” he shrugged trailing with a proud smirk.

Smollett revealed that he found Willis, who is the daughter of actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, on an Instagram video singing a rendition of an Amy Winehouse song and immediately brought his discovery to the show’s producers.

Moore will make an appearance this season, along with other Hollywood heavyweights such as Nia Long, Taye Diggs, Eva Longoria, and Phylicia Rashad.

The panel, moderated by Variety‘s Elizabeth Wagmeister, also revealed that the recurring power struggle between Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) will continue as they scrap (literally) for control of the Empire throne — coined as their biggest battle yet. Simultaneously, viewers will come to grips with a new battle as Jamal fights for his life trying to kick his drug addiction alongside his new rehab friend, Tori Ash (Willis).

“She’s definitely not going to be a positive influence on him,” Smollett teased of Willis’ character. “We really dabble with the idea, ‘is he really ready to be done [with drugs]?”

Co-creator Danny Strong, showrunner/exec producer Ilene Chaiken, director Sanaa Hamri, and writer Carlito Rodriguez, as well as stars Xzibit and Bre-Z, were also on hand for the discussion.

“Empire” returns 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22 on Fox.

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