If you’ve been missing Empire as much as we have, here’s your fix: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard host Spike’s Guys Choice Awards, which air on June 18. EW sat down with the duo—who bicker just as much as Cookie and Lucious—for an unfiltered talk about their friendship, preshow jitters, and the Lyons family.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re used to being in front of the camera, but does hosting introduce new nerves?
TARAJI P. HENSON: It helps when you have a partner. I host the Celebration of Gospel, too, and that’s just me, so there’s a little more pressure. But God is with us. Well, with me—I don’t know who’s with Terrence.
TERRENCE HOWARD: I got the other guy on my side. Big Devil. Big D is my rolling buddy!
HENSON: Oh, God.
HOWARD: No—oh, D.
Do you have a hosting style?
HENSON: We’re always paired together when it’s very dramatic, but we are pretty hilarious! Actually, I’m really funny. He stays in his lane and lets me do my thing. He lets me do my thang.
HOWARD: I’m the catcher of jokes. I’m the joke catcher and she’s the pitcher.
HENSON: That’s the position he plays.
HOWARD: But the joke is on her. See, I’m very good at words. You know, wordsmith. Wordsmith.
You go way back. Did that help on the Empire set?
HENSON: Terence and I have a history. We have a bond that you can’t write. You can’t write this kind of chemistry, you just can’t. If we hadn’t already been through Hustle & Flow, Cookie and Lucious would be less interesting.
HOWARD: I feel like if she goes flying, I’m her co-pilot. If she’s going to sign it, I’m going to co-sign it. Whether it’s on me, whether it’s on her.
HENSON: Why didn’t you tell me my ankles was ashy?
HOWARD: Your ankle is not ashy.
HENSON: My heel.
HOWARD: No, that’s some dust that just got on you right there.
HENSON: See? He loves me. He won’t tell me that my ankles are ashy.
HOWARD: No, I would tell you. You know I’m the first one! But it’s like we’ve always been that way because at the end of the day, it’s the collaboration of the universe that brings everything together.
HENSON: Terrence wouldn’t be who he is if it wasn’t for me.
HOWARD: Yup, and Taraji wouldn’t have any public appearance or appreciation without me.
Are you going to channel the Lyonses during the show? Will we see any scarves? Animal prints?
HENSON: Maybe. Terrence might wear a rose.
HOWARD: I like flowers, the way they scent out my life.
Do those costumes bring your characters to life?
HOWARD: They do. Like when they put that f—ed-up shit on me last year; some of them clothes was jacked up. Had me looking like Barney.
HENSON: Well, they did ask you to lose 20 pounds, so that’s on you, Terrence.
HOWARD: They didn’t have to put me in purple.
HENSON: Just lose the 20 pounds, Terrence, and feel good in any color.
HOWARD: I just lost it! I feel good about myself! If you can wear a f—ing girdle, how come I can’t wear a f—ing girdle? They don’t have a man girdle!
HENSON: They got man Spanx.
HOWARD: Man Spanx? That shit don’t work! That little stuff? No! Unless you can cinch it in the back, and tie it up, and make it strong and pull!
HENSON: Like how you tried last year?
HOWARD: It didn’t really work. But no, I had ALS last year. And then I had a couple ribs removed so that I could have a smaller waist. Why am I still carrying your purse?
How do you view the impact Empire has had on entertainment?
HOWARD: We now have proof that there is an audience for black-motivated shows or urban-centered dramas. We have been told for years that African-American art had no worldwide foundation. But this show is number one in every country it goes to. It’s allowing more people into the game. We love that. [Pauses] But we really love the opportunity to renegotiate soon.
HENSON: Oh my God. Can we end this now before he just shoots himself in the foot or in the mouth or in the face?