If a Fly on the Wall Could Talk: A Glimpse From “Out Damned Spot” Making the First Season of Fox’s Empire


I did my 3:30 am best to paint my face on and put my hair in curls. I always made an effort to show up looking the part rather than completely raw. TV is filmed at a faster pace than the movies. I liked that aspect. On set, a makeup artist and hairstylist redid my makeup, plumped up my sad curls and I was TV ready. A security guard walked me to set and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. 10355380_10101487403633248_2525406121459545659_n I wore a fitted black pencil skirt, white button down, a black clip-on tie and apron; clearly I was supposed be a server at a high-end restaurant.

The set was held in an intimate upscale restaurant. White, undulating, organza tapestry hung over a honey colored wall creating an inviting warmth. The seats surrounding the tables were covered in fine, beige, nappa leather. A second level was partitioned from the rest of the venue with private glass encased dining rooms and Japanese sliding doors.
The camera crew had the place wired and lit. I took my place and waited for it all to begin. The PA came over with some direction. “When Terrance starts to pivot down the aisle, take your tray and begin to set the table.” I nodded and stayed in place.

Terrence was dressed in a grey suit and had a woman by his side donning a deep plum colored fur coat and false lashes that extended out like stacked daddy long legs. I didn’t know it then, but that woman was Cookie Lyon and hidden beneath all the mink was a lacy lingerie number that would later shock the masses when she confronted Terrence and Anika at dinner. cookie-minkIt was quiet on set as we all waited for instruction. From across the room, Terrance Howard’s gaze met mine and I darted my eyes to the ground in submission. He didn’t break his stare and lured me back to his coy, hazel, sleepy, bedroom eyes. After every take, he would look my direction and repeated the action. I darted my eyes downward. Maybe the third or fourth time, I smiled and he smiled back. By now it was clear that his eyes were for me.

By the second scene, the PA had me start right in front of Mr. Howard. I was an earshot away and he whispered in his raspy voice, “good god you’re gorgeous.” My back turned, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if he was complimenting me or Taraji P. Henson. Between takes, he clarified any doubts I was having. He introduced himself and shook my hand. “My name is Terrence Howard and I think I’m in love with you.”

Terrence Howard, being a known method actor and given method acting’s reliance on the personal experiences of the actor, method actors often replicate external conditions of a role to create experiences they can call upon when acting. 10516816_10101487403748018_5995256576209281501_nMoreover, considering Terrence Howard’s long string of failed marriages with mixed Asian women, I’d think it is safe to say that I sparked something in him. In fact, he told me I reminded him of one of his ex-wives who used to do auto shows. Between scenes, he came over to talk to me. The camera wasn’t rolling, but this was my chance to be the leading lady and I can tell you that it takes a hell of a lot of hustle and flow to banter with the star of “Hustle and Flow.” His persona off-screen was the same as usual culmination of  boyish charm and a slime ball schemer. I complimented him on that performance, he complimented my lip freckle.  I wasn’t sure whether to feel smitten in flattery or slap this philanderer upside the head. After we conversed, he invited me out to dinner the evening.

“I’d love to go to dinner. But why don’t we invite your wife? I’d love to meet her too.” I retorted.

“That was good…That was fun. I wish the cameras caught that,” he said as he smiled and walked away. He looked back one last time and inquisitively narrowed his eyes like I knew what was coming next.

Click here to see how it all transpired in case you didn’t already know 😉

During the first season of Empire, Terrence Howard’s character, Lucious Lyon, was initially diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time and the condition usually leads to paralysis and death. Breathing or swallowing muscles may be the first muscles affected. As the disease gets worse, more muscle groups develop problems. ALS does not affect the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch). It only rarely affects bladder or bowel function, or a person’s ability to think or reason. Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt, or reverse, the progression of the disease.Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disorder of the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary movements.

Class Notes: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement.

Since the show was so successful after it’s first season on Fox, the producers had the writers flip the script by misdiagnosing Lucious Lyon with a less debilitating chronic disease called myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under your voluntary control.

Myasthenia gravis can affect people at any age. It is most common in young women and older men. The muscle weakness of myasthenia gravis worsens with activity and improves with rest. There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but treatment can help relieve signs and symptoms, such as weakness of arm or leg muscles, double vision, drooping eyelids, and difficulties with speech, chewing, swallowing and breathing.

Myasthenia Gravis can be controlled by cholinesterase inhibitors which act on the synaptic terminal of the neuron, featured in the drawing. Medications such as pyridostigmine  enhance communication between nerves and muscles. These medications don’t cure the underlying condition, but they may improve muscle contraction and muscle strength.
Class Notes: Depiction of a neuron

Empire is returning to Fox on September 21st. Stay tuned as the excitement continues!

  1. A 57-year-old man has progressive weakness of his arms and legs, without associated urinary or bowel incontinence. Examination reveals weakness of the extremities, fasciculations of the tongue, overactive deep tendon reflexes in the arms and legs, and bilateral positive Babinski sign. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
  •  Primary cerebellar tumor
  •  Myasthenia gravis
  •  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  •  Lambert-Eaton syndrome
  •  Multiple sclerosis

2. A 65-year-old woman comes to your office complaining of a one-month history of general weakness that worsens as the day progresses. Resting alleviates and physical activity worsens the weakness. She says that she has also been experiencing double vision as the day progresses. On exam you note slight bilateral ptosis and nystagmus on sustained lateral gaze as well as mild generalized muscle weakness. Reflexes and sensory exams are normal. Which of the following diagnostic tests is likely to be positive with this patient’s diagnosis?

  •  Incremental response on repetitive nerve stimulation
  •  Anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies
  •  Demyelinating lesions on MRI of the brain
  •  Worsening of muscle weakness with edrophonium (Tensilon test)
  •  Anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodiesThis vignette is describing a patient with myasthenia gravis. Tensilon test should make muscles stronger. Repetitive tests will make weaker.

3. A 54-year-old male presents with ptosis, facial muscle weakness, diplopia, and dysphagia which has been progressively worsening for the past year. Based on his symptomology, he is most likely suffering from which of the following conditions?

  •  Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  •  Myasthenia gravis
  •  Multiple sclerosis
  •  Ramsey-Hunt syndrome
  •  Bell’s Palsy
    Myasthenia gravis is a progressive autoimmune disease that is characterized by marked paresis with repetitive activity. Multiple sclerosis is characterized by slow, uncoordinated movements. Guillain-Barré Syndrome is characterized by ascending paralysis.

4. Which of the following conditions has a high-incidence of associated thymus abnormalities?

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Cerebral Palsy

The thymus contains clusters of immune cells indicative of lymphoid hyperplasia. Some individuals develop thymomas. The relationship between the thymus gland and myasthenia gravis is not fully understood. The prevailing theory is that the thymus gland may give incorrect instructions to developing immune cells results in an autoimmunity and the production of ACh receptor antibodies which affects neuromuscular impulse transmission.



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