After "Empire" premiered in 2015, the FOX drama quickly became one of TV's highest-rated shows. That has made both the series and its stars targets of the tabloids. In honor of the season four finale on Wednesday, Gossip Cop is taking a look back at five wrong rumors we've corrected about the program and its cast.
In September of 2015, just after the highly-anticipated second season began airing, Star alleged leads Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard were at "war." The tabloid claimed the actor was "jealous" his co-star was "getting so much airtime," and would "barely speak to her if the cameras aren't rolling." For her part, it was asserted Henson was "uncomfortable" around Howard due to old domestic violence allegations. As a result, a so-called "source" maintained, "She doesn't really want anything to do with him." But a rep for the actress told Gossip Cop on the record that the pair were "the best of friends and professional colleagues."
Henson later mocked the bogus claims on Instagram with a video of herself and Howard pretending to argue. She wrote in the caption, "HA! Word on THA street is Terrence and I don't get along! Like I would fight to work with someone I DO NOT get along with?! Don't be silly." The hashtags used: "#GottaComeBetterThanThat #StupidRumors #DummysWastedPaperAndInkOnthatBS." Further showing their bond, the Hustle & Flow co-stars went on to host a FOX holiday special together later that year.
Almost a year after that bust, claims circulated that Howard was almost fired from "Empire." The allegation was made by his former management company, which contended in a lawsuit that he was nearly canned from the show until they stepped in and saved his job. But none other than the chief of Fox herself defended Howard and set the record straight. "There has never been a time where we have had conversations about firing him or doing the show without him," Dana Walden, the CEO and chairman told Entertainment Weekly. The executive stressed, "He is a meaningful and critical element of the show... There's candidly never been a conversation about getting rid of Terrence. To the contrary, there are conversations about how much he means to the show." Indeed, Howard has remained the top-billed cast member.
In 2016, Trai Byers faced questions about his own future with the critically-acclaimed program. The New York Post announced he wanted "out" of the show, and thought his character, Andre, was "beneath him." An alleged source claimed, "At first, being on 'Empire' was major for him. But he feels his character is not as important this season, and he hates not being the star." It was further said producers were "prepared to let him leave after some behind-the-scenes diva behavior." But Byers slammed the idea that he wanted to quit, as well as the contentions about on-set problems. "I'm so proud, so happy, and so lucky to be a part of this cast," the actor wrote on Instagram, going on to confirm he was sticking around for the third season. And now he's stayed throughout the fourth cycle as well.
One of the more surprising rumors to emerge about "Empire" over the years didn't have to do with any of the actual cast members, but Zac Efron, of all people. Sites like AllHipHop claimed the actor was set to join the series for the second season. Alleged the blog, "The plot will also have a twist when a fourth Lyon son is brought into the mix, played by Zac Efron." As Gossip Cop explained at the time, this misinformation was the result of outlets being unable to recognize a joke and failing to fact-check. In a Vulture article about Ne-Yo teaming up with Timbaland for new "Empire" music, the author ended by joking that there'd be a "crazy cliff-hanger for the mid-season hiatus in which a fourth Lyon son emerges," portrayed by Efron. This was written in jest, but various places picked it up as legitimate casting news. Of course, while "Empire" has had a ton of celebrity guest stars over the years, Efron has never actually been one of them.
And the most egregious of these erroneous claims came just a few months into the series' run. In April of 2015, a fake news site by the name of New York Times News (not to be confused with the actual New York Times) falsely announced "Empire" was canceled. The bogus outlet maintained Henson "took the news pretty hard and refused to speak about the decision," and even quoted the cast as saying in a statement, "We are keeping hope alive that [co-creator] Lee Daniels works this out with Fox so we can get back to filming one of the biggest shows of all time." This was all a fabrication, one that rapidly spread on Facebook, duping thousands of fans. At the time, plans for season two were already underway, and that same week it was announced that Gabourey Sidibe and Ta'Rhonda Jones were promoted from recurring roles to series regular status for the new episodes.
What's more is that far from being canceled three years ago, as that hoax claimed, earlier this month FOX renewed "Empire" for season 5. The show's ratings are no longer as high as they once were, but its faithful audience can look forward to more twists during the 2018-2019 television season. Should the gossip media continue peddling off-screen drama, Gossip Cop will separate fact from fiction once more.
Gossip Cop has determined this story is totally false.