All About the 'Empire' Cookie Spinoff – and How Taraji P. Henson Mothers Her On-Screen Sons

"They are constantly over my house, I cook for them," Taraji P. Henson says of Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere "Yazz" Gray

Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX

Fox is hoping viewers are hungry for more Cookie.

Empire creator Lee Daniels is planning a spinoff show based on Taraji P. Henson‘s character’s early years, he revealed Thursday at the network’s Television Critics Association panel in Los Angeles.

“There is going to be a spinoff from Empire, without question,” he said. “I think there is so much ripe story. We’ve talked about it in the room already about Cookie’s family, what makes her her, Lucious’ family, what makes them them, that in itself is fascinating to me and stuff that I can get to.”

On the series, Cookie is the fiercely protective mom of rapper/record exec Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) three sons. After being released from prison, she re-enters the family’s life as the boys are pitted against one another in their quest for power in the music business.

And in real life, Henson says she mothers costars Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere “Yazz” Gray.

“My boys, my babies, they are so sweet. Trai is cool. He seems more reserved and calm and more mature,” Henson, 44, said at the panel. “I just had a conversation with Yazzy the other day about saving his money, you know, not believing in your own hype.”

She’s also helping the actors adjust to life in the spotlight, remembering how before the hit show aired, they’d chaperone her trips to Target. But now, they’re getting recognized on the street.

“I would be like tickled and be like,’Okay, who’s gonna be your bodyguard next season?’ And they would look at me and be like, ‘Huh?’ So now it’s next season, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, have you gone to Target?’ ” she said, laughing.

As for her Emmy-nominated role, Henson says she’s “had the time of my life” playing the part.

“I say that probably 80 percent is Cookie and maybe 20 percent is Taraji. Every character I portray, I bring a little bit of my life experiences to it,” she told reporters. “I am not as bold as she is. I have to be politically correct with what I say. She gets to fly off the handle and say what she wants to. I can’t, however, because you guys will quote me and I’ll have to answer for it!”

Empire‘s season 2 premieres Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

Related Articles