'Empire' Covers 'The Hollywood Reporter,' Lee Daniels Defends Terrence Howard Over His Personal Drama [Photos]

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Empire returns to our TV screens in just one week, but ahead of its premiere—and ahead of the Primetime Emmy Awards this Sunday where Taraji P. Henson will vie for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series—the cast and crew were paid a visit by The Hollywood Reporter for an in-depth look at the FOX ratings juggernaut.

The cover story, written by Lacey Rose, allows viewers inside Empire‘s insane writers’ room (there’s literally a story pitched about a supposedly straight man soliciting oral sex from an openly gay man), clues us in to on-set relationship dynamics and teases a cannibalistic Chris Rock (WTF?).

Read an excerpt below.

A dozen “Empire” writers are perched around a cluttered conference table in Beverly Hills when one of the series’ youngest voices clears her throat. “I think I have something,” she says, tapping her cotton-candy-pink nails nervously against the table. “It’s kinda crazy … “

“Oh, we like crazy,” says co-creator Danny Strong, coaxing her along.

Her male hairdresser, she explains, had gone out one evening with his best girl friend and her boyfriend, and at the end of the night the boyfriend took the hairdresser aside and said, “You know, if you wanted to, you could suck my dick. I’m not gay or anything, but you know … it’s cool.”

Before she can finish, the room — a mix of black, white, Latino, gay, straight, seasoned, green and the formerly incarcerated — is howling. “I’m scandalized,” one of the more established writers shrieks in faux horror, when another cuts him off: “No, this is f—ing good.” For the next 15 minutes, they boisterously debate what constitutes cheating and whether this little tidbit is juicy enough to be repurposed as a storyline for season two.

Wow (LOL).

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Empire co-creator Lee Daniels also goes to bat for Terrence Howard in the current issue.

The embattled actor has, however, reduced his press availability, presumably fearing questions will shift toward his offscreen drama as they did in a recent Rolling Stone profile. His co-stars have been advised not to comment on the ongoing saga, but Daniels can’t help himself. “That poor boy,” he says, fiercely protective of his actor. He then alludes to other actors who have been the subject of domestic abuse allegations in the past. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” says Daniels. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

To read the full story and watch behind-the-scenes footage from their shoot, head over to The Hollywood Reporter.

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