In an interview on Access Hollywood Live, Empire star Terrence Howard explained that he wants the hit Fox television show to use the N-word, saying it would make the show more realistic and would help to “tackle racism.”
“I believe if we’re really gonna tackle racism, if we’re gonna tackle bigotry, if we’re gonna tackle homophobia, we need to attack it dead on,” Howard told Access Hollywood Live hosts Billy Bush and Kit Hoover.
You don’t just sit up, you know, let’s give a little aspirin right here, no, we need to take the sutures, open up the problem and reach in and grab it. And since n**** is used in almost every conversation in most black neighborhoods, why is it that we don’t hear it on TV anymore? Are white people afraid of it? Did they create the word? But if this is something that we use on a daily basis, then let’s address what it really means.
Howard’s position is different from that of his Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson, who told TMZ this week that she does not want the word to be used on the show.
“What does the N-word mean to you though?” Bush asked Howard.
“Oh, it could mean love, sometimes it’s a noun, sometimes it’s a verb, sometimes it’s an adjective,” Howard replied. “There’a a spirit attached to it, you know. My dad uses it, my brothers use it, I use it, I’m sitting here, I’m hoping maybe I won’t use it with my son but I don’t know if I’ll be honest if I didn’t use it with my son.”
“You know, my friends use it, I call my white friends, ‘What’s up my n****?’ It has taken on this term to us but it’s blown out of proportion outside the world, so I don’t know,” he continued.
“How does [series creator] Lee Daniels feel about it?” Bush asked Howard. “Is he with you, or is he sort of, he’s got a tough line to walk here.”
“Yeah, Lee, I don’t know. I mean when me and him talk to each other we use it,” Howard explained. “On a daily basis, our texts, this is what we use. Whether Lee gets mad about this or anybody gets mad, I’m just being honest. The word is used, so if one person can use it then everybody should use it, but if white people use it, you gotta remember to take the ‘er’ off of it, and if somebody got a problem about how I feel about it then kiss my monkey a**.”
Empire is the biggest hit on television in some time; the show has grown its audience every week since its premiere in January, with an average of 15.8 million viewers, according to the New York Post. The first-season finale airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
Check out the rest of Howard’s interview below: