Since its premier, FOX’s Empire has seen its ratings sky rocket, and no doubt the show has star Taraji P. Henson to thank for that.  Henson’s character, the no holds-barred, sharp-tongued, “I wish a m____ would” Cookie, is truly the series’ heart and soul.  Love her or hate her, Cookie is the best thing on television; the character’s outrageous and slightly late-90s inspired wardrobe, full of spandex and animal prints, has already become the must-have Halloween costume for 2015.

But it almost didn’t happen.  In a recent TIME interview, Henson revealed that she almost declined the role because, when she first read the script, her co-star Terrence Howard hadn’t been cast.  “If it couldn’t be Terrence Howard, I didn’t want to do it. That’s why I almost turned it down,” she told TIME’s Nolan Feeney.  Henson’s confession squashes the rumors that she initially almost turned down the part because of the homophobia storyline; Cookie’s and Lucious’ middle son, Jamal (played by Jussie Smollett), is openly gay, which is a serious issue for Howard’s Lucious.  Cookie, however, is scheming to use Jamal’s sexuality as his ticket to superstardom.

Empire airs Wednesday nights on FOX.

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