'Empire' 's Courtney Love: I Was Originally Going to Play a 'Whitney Houston Kind of Character'

"I was going to be R&B white royalty, but I am no R&B singer," Love tells PEOPLE

Photo: Matt Dinnerstein/FOX

Courtney Love is known for being an iconic rock ‘n’ roll diva – and now she’s playing one on TV!

With her current guest star role as rocker Elle Dallas on Fox’s Empire, Love – who got a Golden Globe nomination for her role in 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt – is cementing her return to acting that began with a recurring role on Sons of Anarchy last year and a stage production in New York that ran through January.

Now, the Hole front woman, 50, talks to PEOPLE about returning to the profession, why she left it in the first place, and how her role on Empire is actually a new challenge for her.

Why return to acting?
I was acting for a few years and doing quite well at it and then I got tired of it. I went to something that I thought was more autonomous. I went back to playing rock ‘n’ roll, which is much looser. The expectation of behavior is different. With acting, you must be on time. You must be off-book. I love that kind of structure. It really appeals to me now that I’m the age that I am. It’s something that I want to stay with.

How did you end up on Empire?
I d heard from multiple people that [executive producer] Lee Daniels wanted to work with me, but I thought, “Oh, yeah. This is nonsense.” And then I had dinner with a [mutual] friend who really bugged me to call Lee. I thought, “That s so rude! He doesn t even know me.” [Eventually] I texted him, “Hi Lee, this is Courtney Love. How are you doing? XO.” And about two minutes later I get a call from him, “I have a part for you.” I was, like, in shock.

Did you get to help develop your character?
It was originally going to be kind of a Whitney Houston kind of character. I was going to be R&B white royalty, but I am no R&B singer. Lee had wanted to me to do a Patti LaBelle song and I sang it for about five people at Fox. I think they are still cringing about it. I don’t have that Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey voice. That’s not the kind of singer I am. So, we changed it to be more appropriate for my voice, which is rock.

Do you like playing a rocker?
Back in the day, I wouldn t play rock stars. I wouldn’t play villains. I had some really stupid rules. But I was a kid, and now I’m not.

Empire airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Fox.

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