11 Pre-'Empire' Projects From The Cast To Get You Through The Long Summer Before Season 2

The warm weather of summer is one of the only things that keeps me pressing forward as I go through major Empire withdrawal. Now that Game of Thrones has also come to an end, I'm literally at a loss as to what to watch next. Though I scour the internet on a regular basis for hints and spoilers about Empire Season 2, I still find myself desperately missing the Lyons and their antics. The stars of Empire aren’t having quiet summers, however. Taraji P. Henson, for example, is currently gracing the covers of both Allure and W Magazine, and she and co-star Terrence Howard will be battling it out on Spike TV's Lip Sync Battle shortly after the Fourth of July holiday.

Still, I've found that that’s not quite enough to get me through the long days of summer. But, instead of wallowing in Empire withdrawal pity for the next three months, I've decided to take a walk down memory lane. Before Empire broke the internet (and our televisions), the stars of the show were in some incredible projects. Howard and Henson's amazing chemistry didn't just come out of nowhere; the duo worked together on 2005's Hustle and Flow, for which Howard was nominated for an Academy Award. But that's not all.

Here are 11 incredible projects for you to watch this summer, starring the cast of Empire before they were on the record-breaking show.

1. Talk to Me

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Henson starred opposite Academy Award nominees Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2007 period drama Talk to Me, about Ralph "Petey" Greene, who was a radio personality and activist during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Hustle & Flow

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Empire was not Henson and Howard's first time on screen together, nor was it their first foray into hip-hop. The duo starred in the 2005 film Hustle & Flow together. The movie follows a pimp DJ, who, while going through a mid-life crisis, tries to begin a career in music. OITNB's Taryn Manning also stars in the film.

3. Person of Interest


This CBS science-fiction crime drama just wrapped up its fourth season. Henson starred on the show for its first three season as Detective Jocelyn "Joss" Carter, an NYPD officer who helps prevent violent crimes before they happen. Though she was filming Empire during Person of Interest's fourth season, she made time to guest star on the series.

4. The Best Man & The Best Man Holiday

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In 1999, Howard starred in The Best Man as Quentin, a suave musician who just may know a secret that could rip his two best friends apart. Howard reprised his role the sequel, The Best Man Holiday, which came 15 years after the original film. These are fantastic films to watch — especially since the third installment, The Best Man Wedding, is slated for release next year.

5. Lackawana Blues

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This epic HBO film is based on the life of Ruben Santagio Jr., who grew up in a boarding house Lackawanna, New York in the 1950s and '60s. Santagio Jr. lived with his caretaker, Nanny, and her much younger husband Bill, played by Howard.

6. Prisoners

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Howard starred with Viola Davis, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in this severely underrated film. Prisoners follows the story of two desperate families, who take matters into their own hands after their two daughters go missing.

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Henson was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Queenie in this curious tale about a man who ages backwards.

8. Selma

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Empire star Trai Byers was on the big screen last year before we saw him in Empire. Byers starred in Ava DuVernay's critically acclaimed film Selma, a movie that chronicles Martian Luther King Jr.'s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 in an effort to secure voting rights for Black Americans.

9. Precious

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Gabourey Sidibe won an Academy Award nomination for her acting debut in Lee Daniels' 2009 film Precious. Sidibe starred as Precious, a pregnant, abused, and illiterate teen living in Harlem in the 1980s. This film is gut-wrenching, and not for the faint of heart.

10. The Big C

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After her stunning debut in Precious, Sidibe went on to star in Showtime's The Big C with Laura Linney. Linney portrayed Cathy, a teacher coming to grips with her cancer diagnosis. Sidibe starred as Andrea Jackson, a combative student who begins a strange and rather comical friendship with Cathy.

11. American Horror Story

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This anthology horror series is ridiculously addictive. Sidibe portrayed Queenie in American Horror Story: Coven, a self proclaimed "human voodoo doll." In the fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show, which focuses heavily on discrimination, Sidibe played Regina Ross. None of these movies and shows are Empire, but seeing familiar faces on them will definitely make the long wait for Season 2 go by faster.

Image: Chuck Hodes/Fox