Lee Daniels was left in tears after shooting the pilot episode of his new hip-hop drama Empire after watching actor Terrence Howard dump his onscreen son in a trash can – because it was exactly what his own father had done to the director as a child.
The first episode of the series featured Howard as a conniving music mogul who refuses to accept his young son is gay, and the Oscar nominee admits he found it tough to play such a cold-hearted man, but his feelings were nothing compared to what Daniels went through as he watched a brutal incident from his childhood unfold onscreen.
Howard recalls, “When we were doing the scene in the pilot, where I take my son Jamal, who’s dressed up in high heels and a scarf… at five years old, and I take him and I put him inside the trash can… when we shot that, I was trying to be nice a little bit and Lee was like, ‘No, don’t do it the nice way because that’s not how it was done, that’s not how it was done for me.’
“And then when I finally did it without any compassion and without any remorse, Lee was in the background, he couldn’t even watch the camera any more, he was just in tears… absolute tears (because) that’s exactly what his father did to him.”
Daniels has previously spoken at length about his police officer father William, who used to abuse him as a kid because of his sexuality, revealing he ‘came out’ as a gay man because he “loathed” his dad so much.
He added, “I couldn’t understand how you could, with an extension cord, beat a 45-pound kid just because he’s aware of his femininity.”