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‘Empire’: Taraji P. Henson on Cookie’s New ‘Nemesis’ and Guest Stars Eva Longoria, Demi Moore

Variety logo Variety 3/22/2017 Elizabeth Wagmeister
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Empire” went on hiatus in December, and after more than three months, the broadcast juggernaut returns this week with the back-half of its third season.

When the Fox drama last signed off, the Lyon family left viewers with many cliffhangers — Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) sent Jamal (Jussie Smollett) to rehab; Angelo (Taye Diggs) and Cookie’s relationship was left on the rocks after Lucious (Terrence Howard) uncovered his dark past; and Andre (Trai Byers) vowed to kill his father, Lucious. (For a full refresher, click here.)

Taraji P. Henson tells Variety that the new episodes will see “the family fall apart and come back together again and then fall apart again.” With a laugh, she adds, “That’s the best way I can put it without giving too much away.”

Here, in an exclusive Q&A, Henson tells Variety what to expect in “Empire” Season 3, plus teases new guest stars Demi Moore, Rumer Willis, and Eva Longoria.

What would you say are the main themes of the back half of Season 3?

It’s always that looming question — will Cookie and Lucious get back together? Andre is doing very interesting things — he’s becoming very dark and his actions are quite questionable. Cookie tries out another romance, and when she thinks she’s finding love, there’s a hiccup. Lucious is Cookie’s curse!

Is this the season Cookie and Lucious will get back together?

I can’t tell you if they get back together again! Then you don’t have to watch the show! It’s a struggle. It’s complicated.

Will there be more flashbacks into Cookie and Lucious’ past?

Absolutely. You’ll be seeing that all the way up until the end to the finale.

What are Cookie’s feelings for Angelo, after we learned in the midseason finale that he got a DUI and left a girl to die in his past? 

Cookie served 17 years in prison — I don’t think she’s judging him. She gets politics. They play dirty. Cookie understands that. She’s not going to break up with him for that. I don’t think she’s the type of woman to judge someone. Look at her past!

Will we learn the full story behind Angelo’s DUI and what really happened?

Oh yeah, absolutely. You will definitely know the truth behind what happened.

In the midseason finale, Andre said he wanted to kill Lucious — does he really want to kill him?

Yeah, he’s not taking his medicine! That’s what I love about Cookie — that was new information to learn about her son last season, that he was bipolar. When Rhonda died, there’s no one to really look over him to make sure he’s taking his proper medicine. It’s really an uncomfortable thing because she doesn’t really understand mental disorders, so it’s a gray area for her, so all she can say is take your medicine and go to the doctor.

Should Lucious be scared of Andre?

I don’t think Lucious is scared of anything or anybody. But I think as a parent you shouldn’t be scared of your children, and if you are, it’s your fault.

Will we see scenes of Jamal in rehab?

Yes, you will definitely see the entire family visiting him and dealing with his addiction and group therapy and all of that.

Cookie is the one who wanted to send Jamal to rehab. How will that decision impact their relationship?

I think what it does with Cookie and Jamal is it draws them closer because now she’s in her son’s life at a time when he needs her and she can prevent something from happening. When she was away and Andre was diagnosed bipolar, she wasn’t able to do anything as a mother so that guilt is with her. So now, another son has an issue and she’s all over it because she wants to be hands on. It definitely brings them closer.

There are some new stars coming onto the show. What can you tease about Demi Moore, Eva Longoria, and Rumer Willis?

Rumer Willis is a sweetheart. She’s cool because her parents are cool. And then her mom comes on the show, and it’s just like, what?! Demi is someone that I’ve watched since “G.I. Jane” and all the amazing work she’s done. You’ve seen her and Bruce [Willis], and you’ve admired from a far, and then when you meet the person, it’s like, “Thank god! You’re exactly what I thought you were!” She’s so cool and down to earth. It’s amazing when you get to meet someone, like Eva Longoria — “Desperate Housewives,” that was the biggest thing on the planet — and she was so chill and down to earth.

Will any of those new characters play an enemy to Cookie?

Rumer’s character, she’s a little sassy. Jamal meets her in rehab, so she’s got a little attitude, so Cookie chops at her a couple times. Nia Long is on the show and she becomes the nemesis to Cookie toward the end of the season

Is there anyone else you’re still dying to have on the show?

Diana Ross, can you do the show? Hey!

What are your goals for Cookie this season?

That’s a hard question to answer because she’s done so much in three seasons. Where does she go from here?

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