‘Empire’: Phylicia Rashad on Going Toe-to-Toe With Cookie

Empire (Season 3)
empire, highlights

It’s a battle of the mamas! Empire firebrand Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is about to meet her potential mother-in-law—filthy rich, high-society doyenne Diana Dubois (Phylicia Rashad), who has big political plans for her Obama-esque son Angelo (Taye Diggs). And these plans do not include a hotheaded, trash-talking jailbird like Cookie. “People will have a fit when they see Phylicia and me going at it!” says Henson. “This is a story about the power of love and how you can’t stop it.” But Diana is sure as hell gonna try. Rashad gave us the scoop.

Cookie is one rough, tough lady. Is Diana biting off more than she can chew?
Not at all. Angelo is running for mayor of New York City, and it’s Diana’s intention that he should win. He is being groomed for greatness, and Cookie is not what Diana has in mind—for a daughter-in-law or for a first lady. This is a story that deals with class divides within the African-American community, which is something you just don’t see on TV. So bravo to Empire!

RELATED: Queen Latifah’s New Series, Star, to Premiere After Empire’s Fall Finale

Where did all this Dubois wealth come from?
We don’t know much about the father—they’re even keeping that a secret from me—though it is said that he is deceased. He left Diana very well off, so she spends her days at this club and at that soirée, contributing to worthy causes. You know, those things rich people do.


Rashad (left) plays the mother of Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) boyfriend, Angelo (Taye Diggs).

How does Angelo feel about his meddling mom?
He has genuine respect for Diana. At the same time, he’s a grown man who makes his own decisions. Angelo has always been a sportsman when it comes to romance and is surrounded by vacuous socialites. [Laughs] Not that all socialites are vacuous, mind you.

Cookie’s jealous ex-hubby, Lucious (Howard), also wants an end to this love affair and will team with Diana to make it happen. How brutal will the battle get? Will there be blood?
Oh, Diana doesn’t play that way. She’s going to take her time and explore the territory before she makes her move. Diana is not all up in your face. She is a woman of subtle, quiet power—and that’s the most dangerous kind!

Empire, Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox