20 Things We Learned at the Empire PaleyFest Panel

Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray and Trai Byers

We got to attend the PaleyFest panel for Empire Friday night in LA. Check out 20 things we learned while there!


20 Things we Learned at the Empire PaleyFest Panel: 

  1. Terrence Howard joked about the first thing they do on set, “we hug each other. And the moment we walk away, we talk shit on each other.”
  1. Bryshere Gray said he stopped eating ramen noodles when asked how it felt when the show exploded.
  1. Apparently Bryshere calls quinoa “healthy rice.”
  1. No one has more fun on set than Gabourey Sidibe. She says, “We’re all goofy weirdos.”
  1. Gabourey says she and Ta’Rhonda Jones giggle through a lot of scenes. They finally gave her scenes with Ta’Rhonda, and she realized why – they couldn’t stop laughing. When Ta’Rhonda would call her by her real name on set, Gabourey would yell jokingly, “MY NAME’S BECKY!”
  1. Creator Lee Daniels said he likes to call all the actors by their characters’ names even in real life. To this, Gabourey yelled, “He still calls me Precious!” And the crowd erupted in laughter.
  1. Jussie Smollett wrote 8 songs this year.


  1. They have an 8-day shoot for each episode. On days off the actors are typically songwriting or having dance rehearsals.
  1. Serayah says Rihanna and Beyoncé are her inspiration. She often does 10-hour dance days in preparation for the show.
  1. Terrence joked he spends his time in bars talking to old people when Jussie was listing off charities everyone does.
  1. Lee knew the show was going to be a hit when he read in the headlines that Trai Byers was quitting the show… Headlines that Trai says have no truth behind them.
  1. There was a weird sound issue when Terrence was talking, and he paused and said “Am I Darth Vader??”
  1. Lee credits support of Fox that lets them do crazy things every week.
  1. Ta’Rhonda has the BEST “how I got the job” story ever. I can’t do it justice in written form, but it involved skeptically googling Lee and wondering where Terrence is during every audition.


  1. It’s Terence’s birthday! The whole crowd sang happy birthday to him. *Check out our Instagram or Twitter for a short video clip of this.*
  1. On which singers they like to feature on the show – Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé (Gabourey was chanting this), Rihanna, Prince. Lee says he wants to bring the greats back, but then said “we’re good enough. Look at them. I wanna see [the cast] every week.”
  1. Terrence is very wrapped up in the OJ show, to which Gabourey replies, “it turns out he did it! I didn’t think so before, but…”
  1. On advice to aspiring actors: Lee said see the exit door. If you don’t want to eat, breathe, sleep, make you’re entire existence about acting, leave because there’s only rejection.
  1. When an audience member asked for advice about if his pursuing an acting degree is pointless, Trai said, “Education is never pointless.”
  1. Lee Daniels says he doesn’t have time to deal with racism. He explained, “Am I delusional to think that there’s not racism in America? Look at Donald trump.” This resulted in audience applause and a standing ovation by Bryshere. He continued about African Americans struggling to get into the business, “People are gonna tell you no. You’re an outsider because of the color of your skin.” He says to build a path around that and keep

Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett

Sanaa Hamri, Terrance Howard and Jussie Smollett



Empire returns with new episodes on March 30th on FOX!