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Why Wesley Snipes Turned Down Empire

Later tonight, the city of Las Vegas is going to get turned upside down with the series premiere of NBC’s new action-packed drama The Player, and the man behind a lot of the mayhem is Wesley Snipes. You might not know this, but we almost lived in a world where Snipes was turning New York City upside down as the leading man in Fox’s Empire. Alas, it was a case of potential scheduling problems that caused him to turn the high-rated soap down.

Empire’s Lucious Lyon is played by Terrence Howard, an actor that made the transition from big screen to TV, the same as Snipes. But it seems like Howard was willing to devote the majority of his acting focus to the show, while Snipes wanted to leave his door open wide enough to allow some film performances on the side. According to Zap2It, here’s how he explained choosing The Player over Empire as his first major foray on television.

The biggest concern is how much time I would have still to focus on feature films. Thankfully with these guys, they were able to work it out in a way where I can focus on this and still do some movie-star stuff every now and then.

After watching The Player’s first episode, you’ll understand what Snipes is talking about as far as the schedule goes. His character, the ambiguously powerful Mr. Johnson, is the guy behind all of the crime-based gambling in the show, but it’s a series that gets Strike Back’s Philip Winchester to do all the heavy lifting, and Snipes’ appearances don’t come that often. If he were to have joined Empire, he would have been needed on set for the bulk of the production, given how often Lucious pops up in that show.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon, as he delivers just the right amount of subdued intensity that the character needs. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Wesley Snipes would have been absolutely amazing in that role. Plus, Snipes has been known to wear some extravagant outfits throughout his career, and Lucious’ wardrobe is right on par with the fashion sense we’ve come to expect from Snipes. And anyway, even if he isn’t on The Player for most of the screentime, that doesn’t mean that Snipes isn’t a memorable presence, so the show might not have worked as well with someone else in the role. He adds just the right amount of oddball humor to what is already an over-the-top premise, but it all works somehow.

As far as his work on the big-screen, Snipes was last seen in The Expendables 3, and he’s in Spike Lee’s next joint Chi-Raq, with the possible action fantasy Chronicles of the Mayan Tunnel coming later. Then, of course, there’s always the chance that a new Blade movie will get made one day.

In any case, check out The Player when it premieres tonight, Thursday, September 24, on NBC.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.