Dark secrets the cast of Empire tried to hide

Empire has been one of television's most talked about shows since it debuted in 2015. Today, it's in its third season with a fourth on the way.

Over the years Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon), Terrence Howard (Lucious Lyon), Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon), Trai Byers (Andre Lyons) and Bryshere Gray (Hakeem Lyon), have delivered a mega dosage of drama and music to Fox viewers. While the Lee Daniels-created show has enjoyed much success in the spotlight, there are several issues behind the scenes that are shocking. From Howard and Henson's pedophile-like trick to keep sex-scenes kosher to feuds brewing with guest stars, here are the mysterious and terrible secrets you didn't know about.

Terrence Howard's nasty history of domestic abuse

Empire kicked off with a bang in the spring of 2015. By that fall, just as the second season was set to air, numerous damaging headlines about Howard's past came to light. Not only were the accusations critical, he confessed to them in an interview. Fox's hit show, which starred Howard as Luscious Lyon, was now in jeopardy as dark cloud hung over the show.

According to an August 2015 article by People, Howard engaged in a bitter court battle with his second ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, who claims the star threatened suicide and abused her. One chilling email Howard sent Ghent read, "I'm sitting here at lunch hoping you'll call … every minute of every day I feel like putting an end to this miserable existence … every lie I've told to you are equal in my mind to putting bullets into a clip and firing them at my future. … I am devastated by my stupidity." And another scary message read, "I couldn't do anything but sit there [looking] at a f—ing razor blade… I just wanted to die… I'll look for you in my next lifetime." Howard's abuse toward women allegedly goes back years. Per a 2013 New York Daily News report, an ex-girlfriend accused Howard of domestic abuse. She says the star not only choked but punched her during their relationship.

His first marriage to Lori McCommas was also plagued with abuse. This time, Howard confessed to laying hands on his then wife in 2001. Per a damning 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Howard came clean. "She was talking to me real strong, and I lost my mind and slapped her in front of the kids," he said. "Her lawyer said it was a closed fist, but even slapping her was wrong." He was arrested in the matter.

Taraji P. Henson pretends to be a little girl in sex scenes

Raunchy sex scenes between Howard and co-star Taraji P. Henson, who plays Cookie Lyon, are anything but sexy. In fact, she revealed in an odd interview that Howard sometimes has trouble keeping his, uh, private area in check. As she details, an aroused area between friends can be totally awkward.

"He's like one of my coolest male friends in life," Henson told radio host Angie Martinez, reports E! News. "[So] he hates that. Because you have to keep them, the boys, you have to keep them professional. They can't help if they get aroused. Every time we laid there, he kept talking to his male member, 'Don't do that! No, don't! Taraji's gonna punch me!' So then I said, 'You know, I will sock you in the throat.'"

Although it sounds creepy, it appears it was one of many steps Howard took to control his body. He first attempted to stay in wardrobe instead of stripping down. "He goes, 'OK, I'm gonna have to keep my pants on.' And I said, 'OK, do what you need to do… Let me help you,'" she recalled. Then she stepped in and used a bit of weird psychology to make things calm. "Every time he would get on top of me, I would be [in a little girl's voice], 'Daddy, why are you on top of me? Where's mommy? Why is the door closed?' He would be like, 'Oh no!' But it worked," she said.

"I would be like, 'Why are you touching me, Daddy?' And he was like, 'Aw, no, that is twisted.' But guess what? We got through the scene real quick," Henson ended. Her commentary puts their sex scenes on television in a completely different, and creepy, light for fans. Perhaps this is information she should have kept private between them.

Grace Gealey and Trai Byers's romance bloomed behind the scenes

Workplace romances are rarely a good idea—even for celebrities. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's fiery demise may be the best example to date, but Grace Gealey and Trai Byers tried their hand at love anyway. Gealey, plays Anika Calhoun on the series while Byers plays Andre Lyon.

The pair, according to the New York Daily News, met on set and soon began dating. By July 2015, after months courting, the pair got engaged. Fast forward to April 2016 and they took their romance to new heights tying the knot in a super quiet and private ceremony on Grand Cayman Island, reports TMZ. Only 50 people attended and none of their Empire co-stars were present.

While Byers and Gealey don't usually discuss their private lives, Gealey did talk about mixing business with pleasure, according to People. "I think that if you do get involved at your workplace you have to know that this is something that you want to be invested in, and this is just not just something that is frivolous and fleeting," she said on the FabLife in the fall of 2015 after engagement rumors swirled. At the time, she made it clear their love was "real" and not a "fling."

Jussie Smollett's sex scenes are with straight actors

Jussie Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, the gay middle son on the Fox hit show. While fans rejoiced in having a gay person of color on primetime television, few knew some of his sex scenes didn't involve other gays. Smollett, who is openly gay, shared the details in a New Now Next interview.

When asked if he looks forward to days when he has sex scenes, Smollett gets candid. "I would be lying if I said that it was. It's not," he said. "It's not that the person is anything except good but there's no way, unless they're, like, really your baby. Like where you want to be with them—that's the only way that it would be 'Yo, this is kind of hot.”' He says he's become pals with his onscreen boyfriend from season one, Rafael de la Fuente.

"Then I was just on set with Eka [Darville] (who plays Ryan Morgan) with his wife and his baby. This is not the norm!" he quipped. "But it is what it is. It's never like 'I have a sex scene today!' But it's a part of the job and you do what you've got to do. I'm sorry, like that sex scene with Ryan and Jamal turned out pretty f*cking hot."

Smollett says he did approach Darville beforehand to clarify the limits of their scene and to make sure he was up for it all. "In those moments you talk to your partner in the scene," he said. "You make sure that they're comfortable. You make sure that you're comfortable. I did go to Eka and I was like 'Alright, bruh, how comfortable are you? Because for this [sex] scene I'm going to go balls to the wall. But I just want to make sure that you are comfortable."

Taraji didn't want the job unless Terrence was hired

Henson should collect commission from Howard's Empire checks because she got him the job. Some actors have to go through auditions; others get the job by word of mouth. According to E! News, the crew talked about casting during a TCA press tour in 2015. As the story goes, director Lee Daniels approached Henson about the role of Cookie. At the time, he wanted Wesley Snipes to play Lucious Lyon. It was an idea that Henson immediately shot down.

"Taraji says, I really want to do this role with Terrence Howard,' and I was like, 'You ain't got the job yet,'" Daniels remembered of that critical conversation. "And then, I was like, 'Danny [Strong], that's Cookie!'"

Henson followed up, "I was like, 'Lee, this is an incredible project. I think Cookie is amazing. I would love to play her. If you can get Terrence, I'm all about it. If not, good luck with the project!'" Henson and Howard worked together on the Oscar-winning film Hustle & Flow. Henson knew Howard had strong acting and music capabilities. However, Daniels had his reservations. He claims he was unsure if Howard had any interest in working in television. "I didn't think he was going to do it," Daniels added.

Howard, when he finally got the script of the first episode, was "scared to death" of what he read. "But I remembered how frightened I was when I was doing Hustle & Flow and Taraji would hold up, create the entire scene by looking at me and believing in me," he said. "When you're around people who challenge you to go higher than you can, to sing better than you've ever thought you could sing, and you realize that you can reach a high place, which Fox has asked us to do with this show. Not only entertaining people, but change the persona of what's happening in the world, you can't help but jump on board and say, 'I'm in, win or fail.' I'm so thankful, because it has changed my life."

Naomi Campbell didn't want the role

Naomi Campbell is among the top supermodels in all the land. She needs no introduction or any additional work to further her career. When Lee Daniels asked her to participate in the show, she had her reservations. In fact, she didn't want to at all. According to a Vogue interview, at the time Campbell hadn't acted since a 2009 Bollywood film.

"I've known Lee [Daniels] for a long time, but when he asked me to play the role I wasn't sure," the catwalk diva told the fashion bible. "I'd kind of given up on acting." Luckily, she changed her mind after speaking with her mentor the accomplished Diane von Fursternberg. The designer encouraged her to rethink her position and to give it a shot. Fursternberg was right as Campbell's steamy storyline as Hakeem Lyon's older girlfriend was a highlight of the first season.

Speaking of Hakeem Lyon, Bryshere Gray, who plays the arrogant rapper, felt compelled to get his body in good shape because he was shooting scenes with the legendary model. He told Entertainment Tonight he prepared for those steamy shoots by doing pushups. "Hakeem has a thing for older women," Gray said. "That's his fetish. He has serious mommy issues."

Nia Long is hard to work with

There's drama in the script and drama on the set. According to TMZ, guest star Nia Long was in diva mode with star Henson.

Insiders tell the site that Long, who played Lucious' former girlfriend, was rude to folks back stage including the hair, makeup and wardrobe teams. She allegedly turned her daggers toward Henson when they had to shoot scenes together. Spys say Long and Henson got into a tiff and made Henson angry. Their catfight caused producers to figure out how to shoot their scenes, in which they act together, separately, should it come to it. The source says it's not likely Long will be asked back for season four. Her rep also denied any drama on set saying, "This story is complete nonsense. Throughout her long, established career, Nia has been nothing but a consummate professional treating all members of productions with respect."

TMZ caught up with Long in the streets of Los Angeles weeks later. She denied any beef with Henson. "There no lawsuit. None of that is true. I love Taraji, she's an amazing actress. There's no beef with us at all," Long calmly said. She stayed mum on details if she would work on the show again. Long also had one more final word on the matter before storming off in her car, "Taraji is a wonderful actress. She deserves all the accolades she's getting and it's never been about that. I respect her. She respects me. The work is the work."

Taraji is ready to quit

Season four of Empire will debut in the fall of 2017 and it may be Henson's last. In a candid interview with Variety, which her bosses almost certainly read, Henson claims she's tired of her character and the show.

"I could not do this forever. No. Cookie wears me out!" she dished. "She drains me. She is emotionally all over the place. Those writers, they just keep pushing my emotions with every episode. By the 18th episode [of each season], I'm dead. I got to get far away. I don't wear animal print. I cut my hair into a bob. I don't wear a weave because I've got to get as far away from Cookie as possible."

Although it's unclear when she'd like to end it all, Henson says a good mark of achievement is when the show hits syndication. "I learned this from the women of Sex and the City — you've got to know when to go out," she added. "You don't want to overstay your welcome. You want to go out on a high. You want to be remembered as the number one show on network. I'm going to loose my passion, I know me. And Cookie is enough. I can't do that for so long."

The show is constantly facing lawsuits

Another dark secret viewers don't know is that this show is constantly hit with lawsuits. Over the years, there have been a plenty of legal action with allegations that ideas were stolen and that characters were based off their real lives.

According to Page Six, Detroit resident Sophia Eggleston claims Fox and show creators stole her life story. She whole heartedly believes the character Cookie is based off her real life. Thus, she was seeking $300 million in her suit. Among the similarities between her and the TV character — she was a drug kingpin, she loves fur coats and has a gay relative. She also claims to have shopped her memoir to Daniels at some point in the past. As of August 2016, a judge rejected Fox's bid to have the suit tossed out, adds the Hollywood Reporter.

In 2015, a man name Ron Newt slapped Daniels and Howard with a billion dollar suit claiming they hijacked his life story. He, like Eggleston, believes the show stole his life story. He says the character of Lucious Lyon is based off his life. Newt is also pissed because he says he pitched it to Howard only to see it developed on television, reports TMZ. In the meantime, Newt has shot his own reality show, The Newt Empire. But it doesn't have a home yet. His case is ongoing.

The show was slapped with class action lawsuit in 2016 after it filmed two episodes at a juvenile jail, reports Deadline. The suit claims that while the show was in production on the property, it left the inmates on "lockdown." As a result, innmates were not allegedly allowed to attend school, have family visitation or use any of the available facilities. The suit was brought on two teens at the Chicago based jailed.