Empire’s Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett brought the house down at Entertainment Weekly’s EW Fest on Saturday night, mainly through sheer force of personality — and a demonstration of their incredibly warm TV mother-son chemistry. Here are a few tidbits from their discussion that we thought you should know:
Henson cannot stop mothering.
When she was mobbed during a recent location shoot, she was mostly worried about making sure the fans were safely off to the side of the road. And she couldn’t stop lecturing Smollett onstage as he discussed his reticence to hide from the public now that he’s famous. “This one, I don’t know if he doesn’t know that he’s Jussie Smollett yet,” she said. “He’s just walking down the street, no hat on, no shades.” When Smollett protested that he wants to be “a man of the people,” she responded, “I know, baby, but you’re gonna have to find a way to do that and still be safe.”
The cast Rollerblades together and goes to Target … a lot.
“I get inspired when I go,” Henson said. Their co-star Gabourey Sidibe will even share her toilet-paper stash with Smollett: “She texted me and was like, ‘I got too much toilet paper, so I got you for the next few months.” Henson added, “If you look at the show and say, ‘God, they look like they get along … ’ We really do. We’re like a family.”
Accordingly, they hang out together even during their time off.
Henson said, “On weekends, if Terrence [Howard] says, ‘You have to come over,’ we have to go. ‘Cause he’ll feel some kinda way if we don’t go over to his house and spend time with him. It’ll hurt his feelings.” Added Smollett, “Terrence is so sensitive!” Once there, they mainly eat a lot of sushi and fall asleep in his oversize beanbag chairs.
The cast also plays Spades every Saturday.
Though it’s unclear how they have all this quality time together and also make an hour-long television drama every week, they apparently also have a “very intense” regular card game. Their co-stars Trai Byers and Grace Gealey — a real-life couple that Smollett calls “Trace” — are quite good. “Me and Missy, who does my hair on the show, we are very good, too,” Henson said.
Smollett wrote the song from the show “You’re So Beautiful” about Sidibe.
“I was in the studio and texting Gabby like always,” he said. “We were just talking and joking about how dope Gabby is. She’s so funny and confident and sexy. But every single woman and every single man, no matter how confident you are, has to hear every once in a while, ‘You’re so beautiful, you’re perfect.’ So we wrote it about Gabby.” Bonus: Extra toilet paper for life.