Why Empire's Ta'Rhonda Jones Slays Every Scene as Porsha

Michael Logan
Ta'Rhonda Jones as Porsha - Empire
FOX

She Plays Porsha Taylor, the towering, fabulously mouthy personal assistant to big mama Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) on Empire. Loyalty is an issue. Last season, Porsha nearly went to work for Cookie’s enemy Anika “Boo Boo Kitty” Calhoun (Grace Gealey). “Porsha has needs, baby!” Jones says. “She needs a new weave. She needs new shoes. You’ve seen the crazy way she walks. Those damn feet hurt! Who wouldn’t go where the money is? This is Empire. Everybody switches sides.”

Where You’ve Seen Her Probably nowhere. Jones, who’d never acted before Empire, originally auditioned for the role of Tiana, the bisexual hip-hop star. “Can you imagine?” Jones says with a laugh. “Tiana is so cute and dainty, and I’m so big and loud. And she’s such a slut! I wore this really sleazy outfit to my meeting with the casting director, who was trying so hard not to laugh. I don’t do well with ‘sexy.’ They found me another part.”

RELATED: Season 2 of Empire Dials Up the Drama

Why We Love Her If you can steal scenes from the formidable Henson, no one in showbiz is safe. “When I auditioned Ta’Rhonda, I immediately thought, ‘Spinoff!’” says cocreator/executive producer Lee Daniels. “She’s utterly brilliant. No one else could play Porsha the way she does.” But Leslie Jones (no relation) did try when Saturday Night Live spoofed Empire. “I watched it with my sister, and she got really pissed because Leslie doesn’t look like me,” Jones says. “I told her, ‘Dude, who cares? They’re making fun of me on SNL. This is huge!’”

Do Quit Your Day Job Jones was working at a Chicago nursing home when cast as Porsha. “I still go back there for visits,” she says. “They go wild, and everybody wants pictures, especially the ones who used to give me a hard time. I’m like, ‘Look at me now, you old bats!’”

Empire, Wednesdays, 9/8c, FOX