'Empire' Season 1 Guest Stars Include Huge Celebrities, But Who Will They All Play?
After Empire's premiere last Wednesday, we quickly learned that Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. But the show's players behind the scenes are just as powerful as the characters they've created. Showrunner Lee Daniels has been nominated for two Oscars, and executive music producer Timbaland won three Grammys. These guys are a big deal. Big enough that they've managed to secure a huge list of guest stars for Empire 's first season. Some of these names have never even appeared on TV before. Empire is clearly pulling out all the stops to make sure its the biggest, baddest show we've seen in a long time.
Over the next 12 episodes, we'll see famous singers, rappers, and actors all pop up on the buzzy new series. Some will play themselves, others will be original characters. Read on to find out which celebs will appear — there are definitely a few faces that will surprise you.
Image: Chuck Hodes/FOX
Or is it Snoop Lion? Whatever the rapper-turned-reggae singer (is that still happening?) goes by these days, we know that he’ll be playing himself on Empire, according to The Wrap. He’ll show up in Episode 11, which should air in late February or early March — conveniently close to when his next album, Bush, will be released.
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: You might not remember, but Snoop has actually been acting nearly as long as he’s been putting out music. The artist has appeared in everything from Soul Plane to Training Day to The L Word, and he’s voiced animated characters in several cartoons.
Snoop’s Empire Dream Role: I would love it if Snoop were the one to stand up to Lucious and just tell him to get over his homophobia and accept son Jamal for who he is. Having an actual rapper who’s respected in the music industry make that kind of statement would be huge — and hearing that from someone like Snoop, who has really risen through the ranks of hip hop just like Lucius did, might be the only way to get Empire Entertainment’s CEO to see reason.
Love’s character is Elle Dallas, a hard-partying rocker who shares more than a few similarities with the actress who plays her. Elle is an artist signed to Empire, and Love is booked as a recurring guest star, so expect to see the Hole singer throughout the season.
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Like Snoop, Love is also a musician who’s dabbled in acting quite a bit. She’s been in some pretty acclaimed movies and shows, including her breakout role in The People vs. Larry Flynt (which earned her a Golden Globe nomination) and Sons of Anarchy.
Love’s Empire Dream Role: Elle is a rock singer, not a hip hop artist, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Lucious, Andre, and the rest of Empire Entertainment interacts with her. How funny would it be if Hakeem and Jamal love her music, but Lucius just doesn’t get it? I’d also like to see Love's character maybe offer Hakeem some advice about his own partying ways, and try to set him on a different path from the one she went down.
Campbell, one of the most famous supermodels of the ’90s (and Tyra Banks’ old rival), is another unexpected but welcome addition to the Empire cast. She’ll play Camilla, Hakeem’s much older girlfriend who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “exercises considerable influence and control” over the younger rapper.
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Campbell doesn’t have a ton of acting credits to her name, but she has been on TV before, as the host of the modeling competition The Face. She also guested on a few shows earlier in her career, like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Cosby Show.
Campbell’s Empire Dream Role: Can we please get an epic face-off between Camilla and Lucious over Hakeem’s loyalty? I would love to see these two heavy hitters square off. I’m also dying to see Camilla and Hakeem’s interactions — it’s not often you see an older woman paired up with a younger boyfriend on TV, so that’s something to look forward to. Check out this promo, which features the two actors in a pretty intimate position. Bonus points to British Campbell for nailing that American accent.
Legendary soul singer Knight will be playing herself on Empire this year. (I really hope it’s the same one as Snoop Dogg, I’d love to see that interaction.) We don’t know yet if, in the world of the show, the Pips singer is signed with Empire or if she’s involved with the plot some other way. All I care about though, is that they give her at least one song.
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Though she’ll always be best known for her tremendous voice, Knight is also a serious actress. She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1977 for her film debut in Pipe Dreams. Most recently, she’s played Grandma Carolyn on The First Family, a sitcom about a presidential family.
Knight’s Empire Dream Role: Maybe Lucious is trying to revive this soul legend’s career for a new generation? Like I said, as long as Knight sings on Empire, it’s all good.
A two-time Grammy nominated rapper, Fabolous isn’t exactly known for his thespian skills, but the guy can lay down a track like no one else. We don’t yet know what his character will be like on Empire, or even if he’s playing himself. But, as showrunner Ilene Chaiken told The Hollywood Reporter, “Lucious Lyon would know all of these people and have those relationships [with real musicians].”
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: Almost nowhere. The “Dip It Low” rapper had a small part in 2006’s Scary Movie 4… and that’s it.
Fabolous’ Empire Dream Role: Maybe the famous MC recruits Hakeem to guest on one of his new tracks, which then becomes a huge hit.
R&B singer and producer Anthony Hamilton will play himself on Empire this season. Considering the guy has been has working in R&B and soul music since the early ’90s, that sounds like the perfect role. Hamilton may not be the most well-known person on this list, but he’s made eight albums, including 2003’s Comin’ From Where I’m From, which was certified platinum.
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: Other than the role of “Funk Band Singer” in the Denzel Washington movie American Gangster, Hamilton hasn’t every acted before. His music has appeared on many soundtracks, though. Most recently, he penned an original song for Django Unchained.
Hamilton’s Empire Dream Role: Hopefully the singer can connect with Jamal and give him some pointers about releasing an R&B record. You know Lucious isn’t gonna do it.
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
One of Empire’s only guest stars without a music career, Gooding is also one of the most accomplished actors to appear on the show. He’ll play a character named Puma and, though nothing has been announced about the role, we can see in promos that he and Cookie have a close friendship. And that he owns a barn.
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: Gooding won an Oscar in 1997 for Jerry Maguire, and gave one of the best awards speeches of all time. Since then, he’s acted in dozens of films including, most recently, Selma. Next, he’ll play O.J. Simpson in the 2015 miniseries American Crime Story.
Gooding’s Empire Dream Role: Could Puma be Cookie’s brother? The two are definitely close, but I didn’t get a romantic vibe from the two of them. Maybe Puma can be the encouraging male role model Jamal needs in his life.
Yep, this ’80s heartthrob is still in the biz. Nelson will appear on Empire and IMDb lists his character's name as Baretti, which is all we know about his part on the show, and that he’s listed for at least three episodes in the middle of the season.
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: “Don’t you… forget about me.” If you don’t immediately think of that lyric when anyone mentions Judd Nelson, you’ve seriously missed out on an important chapter in American film history. Nelson was part of the Brat Pack, a group of young actors that also included Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, and Rob Lowe. He starred in movies like The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire in the mid-’80s, and more recently, he’s appeared on the shows Nikita and Two and a Half Men.
Nelson’s Empire Dream Role: Baretti just sounds like a name for a TV cop. Could Nelson play Cookie’s parole officer? That’s certainly a job I do not envy.
And Even More?
If Empire was able to land those stars, it's likely that have a few more surprise guests in store. Model/actor Tyson Beckford, rapper Foxy Brown, and professional best friend Gayle King all attended a screening of the series, so could appear on the show next? None of them have been announced as joining the show, but it's possible. Be sure and catch Empire’s upcoming episodes to find out who else makes it on to this jam-packed new series.