As he works on the final season of Fox’s “Empire,” Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree Terrence Howard says he is preparing to say goodbye to his media-mogul patriarch Lucious Lyon, but also acting in general.
“I’m through performing for people,” Howard says. “Those days are done. That ends with Lucious.”
After years of playing other people professionally and investing his emotions into other artists’ visions, Howard is eager to turn his attention to himself and what his larger purpose in the world may be: “Now it’s time to move forward and really explore who Terry is.”
But first, Howard will receive his Walk of Fame star Sept. 24. “To have my name on the sidewalk where people will make their way in hopes of one day having some recognition, it’s humbling, because people will stand on your star and get a feel for who you are, you know, and try and put themselves in your shoes,” he says.
It’s also a distinction he considers greater than a celebration of his 27-year career in film, TV and music because it’s also a tribute to the generations of performers in his family who came before him.
“It feels like I’m a gift to my ancestors that were fighting to become actors,” Howard says, citing three generations from his great-grandmother, Broadway actress Minnie Gentry, to his grandmother, singer Marjorie Hawkins, to his mother, who he says “was trying her hardest to show that she had what it took to make it in Hollywood.
“I think that I became an actor for that reason: showing my mom that [she] could’ve done it,” he continues. “The happiest moment of my life was when I was able to take her to the Oscars and she saw her son up there.”
Howard worked steadily during the first decade of his career, getting early notice for work in films including “The Best Man” and “Dead Presidents,” but it was his performance in the 2004 film “Crash” that launched him to stratospheric career heights. That was followed with an Oscar-nominated turn in 2005’s “Hustle & Flow.” A rich and varied career in film (“Four Brothers,” “Winnie Mandela,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “St. Vincent”) and television (“Lackawanna Blues,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” “Wayward Pines”) followed.
Along the way, though, Howard has also experienced a string of professional and personal controversies that have made headlines. After co-starring as Tony Stark’s best friend James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes in 2008’s “Iron Man” at the dawn of the superhero takeover of the box office, Howward was then embroiled in a public salary dispute, and did not reprise the role for any follow-up films.
Allegations of domestic violence surfaced amid the dissolution of two of his three marriages, as well as from former girlfriends (most of the charges were dropped or settled, with Howard pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in 2001). He is currently embroiled in a federal investigation for tax evasion, while also being ordered to pay a long-outstanding divorce judgment.
“I am and always have been a law-abiding and taxpaying American citizen. All allegations that have been made against Mira [Pak, his ex-wife] and I are categorically false,” Howard says.
Howard acknowledges that his road to success has seen several bumps. “It’s a roller-coaster ride — sometimes your hands are up in the air and then sometimes you’re holding on for dear life,” he says. “During those rocky times, you learn what your constitution is made of, whether it’s something malleable or something that that’s dancing and unbendable.” Through various ups and downs, “I found me, and was happy to have found me.”
He also found another signature role, playing Lucious Lyon on Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s “Empire.”
“I was frightened of what that character may require from me,” Howard says of tackling the role’s less savory aspects. But as the series heads into its final season, Howard believes there’s still room for some redemption: “I think we’re going to get him to the Gates of Heaven before we have to say goodbye to him.”