On its way past 11 million viewers, Fox’s Empire hasn’t exactly shirked controversy. So far, viewers have seen an openly homosexual lead character come to grips with his father’s homophobia, a business at least in part funded by illegal drug money, some adultery, and a gangland-style execution all intertwined in various plot lines. On the heels of show co-creator and co-producer Danny Strong admitting Terrence Howard’s character was inspired by Jay Z, Howard wants the show to push the envelope in one more fairly significant way.
“Why is TV showing something different from the reality of the world?” Howard offered in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Why is there a thing called censorship that stop people from hearing everyday talk? We use n***a every day. It’s become part of a conversation—why aren’t we using it in the show?”
Aside from possibly offending sponsors, Empire’s coveted 9:00 pm time slot may have something to do with Howard’s question. FCC regulations ban programming thought to be obscene from airing between 6 am and 10 pm. Even without dropping Howard’s requested five-letter slur/term of endearment, he says the realism of Empire has been one of the reasons the show is generating such high ratings.
“If we start getting silly, if we start playing to people’s fancies, then we don’t deserve to be where we are,” Howard added. “It’s a big pressure because I want to be a truth-sayer. I want to raise the bar.”
The full interview with Howard will be available in this week’s print edition of Entertainment Weekly.