Star of hit US series Empire sings the show’s praises
GRACE Gealey struck it rich when she landed a starring role on Empire.
The Cayman Islands native made her TV debut in the hit new American drama about a family's power struggles for control of an R&B record label.
The show broke ratings records in the US and the official soundtrack, featuring original songs by producer Timbaland, beat Madonna to the top of the US Billboard albums chart.
Grace plays record boss Lucious Lyon's (Terrence Howard) girlfriend Anika, who also works as the head of A&R at Empire Records.
"I actually lucked out," she tells APN.
"I sent in a tape audition and I did a screen test with Lee (Daniels, co-creator). I was told I got the job two days later. I'd definitely say there's a larger power at work here."
Anika's relationship with Lucious is threatened, both personally and professionally, when his ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P Henson) is released from prison and comes to collect her dues for helping to found the record label and launch Lucious's career.
"Anika is thrust into this situation where she's like, 'What is going on?'," she says.
"You get a chance to see how she shifts with the presence of another dominant woman there, who happens to be the ex of her man and the mother of his children.
"How is she going to deal with it? Let's just say she's pretty formidable."
Grace said she enjoys close relationships with Oscar nominees Terrence and Taraji off-screen.
"Terence is a gracious actor; he's so sweet and so warm and welcoming and so is Taraji," she says.
"She's so funny and she plays all the time (off camera). We have a lot of fun together.
"I've learned so much working with them already."
The show, which has already been renewed for a second season, is ramping up to a dramatic season one finale, featuring celebrity guests stars Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Patti LaBelle, as well as returning guest stars Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Hudson.
"We were shooting the last couple of episodes when it went to air and (the popularity) really kind of inspired us in a whole new way," Grace says.
"We were really pumped and you will see in the last couple of episodes how we really went for it."
Empire airs tonight at 9.30pm on Channel 10.