As one of the last television season’s biggest surprises, as well as one of the most successful freshman series of all time, Fox’s Empire can basically do anything it wants in Season 2 without the fear of viewers leaving it behind. But it sounds like a lot of that soapy drama will be happening without star Terrence Howard, who may see his role in the show get limited as his personal life and history of domestic abuse is once again overshadowing his career.

If you watched Season1, you saw Howard’s Lucious Lyon get carted off to jail after being arrested in the finale, and he’ll be spending a portion of Season 2 behind bars. And while it was a pretty solid way to end the ratings bonanza, it might not have all been solely as a plot device. Here’s what a PageSix source had to say.
What they are doing is two-fold. They have him locked up so you won’t be seeing him in as many scenes. But they are bringing in so many, and I mean so many, guest stars and cameos that the average viewer won’t realize it because there is so much going on.

You have probably seen Howard’s name pop up across the Internet recently, as he’s in the middle of a particularly ugly lawsuit filed by ex-wife Michelle Ghent where it’s said he allegedly kicked her, strangled her and threw her against a wall during a trip to Costa Rica back in 2013, the same year they divorced. She’d previously filed multiple restraining orders against the actor after he reportedly physically injured her and repeatedly threatened her, among other things. She’s not the only one who went through such events, as several women over the years have claimed he abused them in the past, including his estranged first wife. (He was arrested in 2001 for several charges after he broke into her home and attacked her.) Making things even weirder is his recent “secret” divorce earlier this month from his third wife Mira Pak, with whom he’d recently had a child.

So what will the show be doing while Lucious is locked up in prison with Chris Rock and Ludacris? Putting Cookie Lyon on top of everything, of course. As one of the breakout characters of the year, Howard’s Hustle & Flow co-star Taraji P. Henson was an absolute delight and was the most watchable member of the talented cast. She will apparently be seen in fewer flashback sequences and will have her “guns blazing” in the present, which is no surprise, since she’s already being considered for a possible spinoff.

There are definitely more guest stars coming to Empire than your normal TV series, so if Howard’s decreased role is legit, it makes sense that they would all be there in a combined effort to not make it obvious that he’s not around as much. Beyond the previously mentioned folks, we’re also going to see Mariah Carey, Pitbull, Lenny Kravitz, Marisa Tomei and Alicia Keys, with hopes that Oprah Winfrey will find her way into the drama at some point. Season 2 of Empire is being split into two nine-episode installments with a midseason hiatus breaking things up, so maybe things will have changed for Howard by 2016.

Either way it goes, tune in for Empire Season 2 when it premieres on Fox on Wednesday, September 23.

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