One to Watch: Grace Gealey Talks New TV Show ‘Empire’

Get a load of Johnny Depp as the big bad wolf.
Actress Grace Gealey just landed the role of a lifetime. As her first TV role, Gealey booked a major part on the new FOX show, Empire.

We were lucky enough to talk to Gealey about her role on the show, and she also revealed her dream co-stars! Check out the interview below to see who Gealey picked, plus learn why Gealey is “One to Watch!

Celebuzz’s second “One to Watch” talent is Gealey. Gealey’s new show, Empire, is breaking records and attracting millions of viewers each week.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this new show, we asked Gealey to talk to us about Empire and her character. She told us, “Empire is about a music mogul, Lucious Lyon. Him and Cookie Lyon, they were married, they have three boys. They were dealing drugs to get the money to start up their own record label company. During one of the drops, Cookie gets sentenced to 30 years in jail. Fast forward 17 years later, Lucious has taken the money and created a really lucrative record label company that all three of the sons are associated with. He has just recently found out that he has an illness and he has to find a successor for his company, and Cookie is released from jail early.” Wow, so much drama!

Who does Gealey play in this show? She told us, “My character, Anika Calhoun, is the head of A&R for Empire, and she also happens to be Lucious Lyon’s girlfriend. So that’s where the plot thickens.”

The show premiered to record ratings on Jan. 7! So, how did the cast feel about that news? Gealey revealed to us that the Empire team was “thrilled!”

A big draw to this show is the creators, Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and its amazing cast, including Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

So, what’s it like working with these awesome actors? Gealey told us, “They’re just phenomenal, they’re phenomenal to work with, phenomenal to create with. They’re very present, very honest actors that are extremely intuitive. It’s just been a real pleasure creating art with them. I think that, as people can see so far we’ve been able to create some really wonderful things together, so I’ve been really happy.”

Watching Gealey on Empire, you would never know this is her first TV show! Gealey went to the University of South Florida and got her undergraduate degree in Theatre Art. Then she went to the University of California, Irvine where she got her Masters Degree in Acting. Then she went to New York for four years, where she worked professionally in regional theatre. Gealey recently made the transition into TV, landing this role on Empire.

Gealey is working with some incredible actors on Empire, but who would she love to work with in the future? She revealed to us, “Of course, we all want to work with Meryl Streep, that would be phenomenal. To work with Viola Davis would be amazing. To work with Anika Noni Rose, I absolutely love her work as well, that would be great. I think all of those would be phenomenal.”

Since it’s award season, is there anyone Gealey hopes will win? She told us, “I’m not really rooting for anybody in particular. I’m still catching up, because I’m shooting, I’m still catching up on a lot of the movies that are out. So I can’t say, ‘well this person deserves it or not.’ I do wish that Selma had more nominations however, for the Oscars, because I did see that and I just thought that that was so phenomenal. I thought that David Oyelowo was really good and Ava DuVernay did such a great job directing. So I mean, I do, I wish that, but for the people that are nominated I’m sure that they’re very well deserving of it. I’m still catching up on all my movies, but I’m sure it will be a great time for everybody there.”

Gealey also what we can expect on the upcoming episodes of Empire. She revealed, “Look forward to being completely surprised and just being completely thrown off of whatever you think you’re on when it comes to guessing about what’s going to happen with the characters. I think we’re going to be turning a lot of heads, you’re going to be gasping quite a lot, I’m sure they’ll be much more tears, much more laughter, much more strained relationships, much more conflict. But a ton of surprises that will come, and where we begin in the beginning of the season, I mean really at the end of the season, I’m sure a ton of people will be shocked. So be prepared to be unprepared.”

You can watch Empire every Wednesday at 9/8c on FOX!

Photo Credit: Photographer Ben Miller