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‘Empire’ Star Taraji P. Henson Says Cookie, Lucious Are Heroes: ‘They Broke a Cycle of Poverty’

”Anybody that’s from the hood knows that is very hard to do,“ Emmy-nominated actress says at season 2 premiere Q&A

“Empire” star and Emmy nominee Taraji P. Henson said she feels her character and Terrence Howard‘s on the hit Fox show are “kind of heroes.”

“You can say whatever you want about her, about Lucious, about what they did to get where they are, but at the end of the day, their sons are not statistics,” Henson said during a Q&A for the show’s second season premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Saturday. “They broke a cycle of poverty. And anybody’s that’s from the hood knows that is very hard to do.”

“To not only break it for yourself but for your sons, for your black boys that’s coming up,” she continued. “So that’s why I think they’re kind of heroes in a very American way.”

Later during the Q&A, Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Lucious’ assistant Becky on the show, teared up as she thanked Lee Daniels for all the help he has given her in her career. “Lee is the first person in the world who looked at me, looked at my skin color and looked at my talent and said, ‘Yes.'”

Daniels directed Sidibe to an Oscar nomination in 2010 for her leading role in the film “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”

Another poignant moment came when Ta’Rhonda Jones spoke about how she was torn between accepting the role of Porsha and a new job at a hospital, at which point she asked God for a sign.

“My brother was killed in April. He was shot down,” Jones said. “I keep a watch of his, and when I said, ‘I need a sign,’ the watch went off.”

“Empire” returns for its second season on Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET.