A recently announced publishing deal that will yield a memoir next year from current “It Girl” Taraji P. Henson is one of two pending books spawned by FOX-TV’s wildly popular hip-hop series, “Empire.”
Henson, who plays fan favorite “Cookie Lyon” in the hit family drama filmed in Chicago, centered around a hip-hop empire, is scheduled to release her memoir in mid-2016, Simon & Schuster imprint 37 Ink announced last week.
But it won’t be the first to be released by a member of the “Empire” crew, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
That will come from Timothy Mosley, a k a Timbaland — the super producer behind Grammy Award-winning, top-selling albums of mega-artists such as Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Beyonce — and now the executive music producer driving the slick soundtrack of “Empire.”
A Timbaland memoir, titled “The Greatest,” is scheduled to be released by HarperCollins on Nov. 17.
Henson’s memoir was so hotly sought it was the prize of a heated auction among several publishing houses, sources said.
She is represented by literary agent Todd Shuster and longtime talent manager Vincent Cirrincionne, who got Henson her first professional acting gig on the WB series, “Smart Guy,” two years after her February 1996 arrival in Hollywood. Henson met with several publishers about the book in mid-March at a hotel in New York’s Soho and elsewhere, sources said.
Publishers clearly were interested in the breakout star of “Empire,” and in others both in front of and behind the scenes of the 2015 season’s runaway TV show.
Directed by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and produced by Brian Grazer, “Empire” features a prominent black cast led by actor Terrence Howard in the role of Lucious Lyon — a former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and the CEO of Empire Entertainment. Henson plays his sassy ex-wife and mother of his three sons. Her character, Cookie, served 17 years in prison for Lucious and seeks to reclaim her share of their company.
Henson, who earned an Academy award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” has drawn a huge social media following of so-called “CookieMonsters” through the role, and this past weekend earned a star turn hosting “Saturday Night Live.”
Her memoir will share with readers in essence @therealtaraji — her Twitter handle — the 44-year-old Washington, D.C., native’s journey from growing up in rough-and-tumble Southeast D.C., to getting pregnant while attending Howard University, moving to Hollywood with a baby in tow, and fighting against all odds as a single mom to achieve big-screen dreams.
“I know Taraji Henson will bring the same magnetism and dynamism to the page that she brings to the screen,” 37 Ink V.P. & Publisher Dawn Davis said in announcing 37 Ink had snagged the project.
“Beyond the glamor, beyond the larger-than-life persona, Taraji Henson exudes an every-woman quality that her audience, which grew with each episode of ‘Empire,’ can relate to,” Davis said.
The memoir of Timbaland, 43, who weekly introduces viewers to both new and existing music as songwriter and song producer for the breakaway show, will cover the Norfolk, Virginia, native’s ascent from a high school DJ to world-renowned record producer, composer, rapper and singer.
The musical genius behind Timberlake’s transition from boy band to pop megastar, Timbaland has created hits for artists from Missy Elliott to Madonna, Elton John to Keith Urban. He learned early to adapt. Accidentally shot by a co-worker at age 15 and left partially paralyzed for nine months, he learned to DJ using his left hand. He got his big break through rapper Missy Elliott, who heard the teen’s material and began working with him.
Timbaland’s wife, business partner and label CEO Monique is similarly the driving force behind the show’s over-the-top costumes, as the show’s fashion consultant, working with costume designer Rita McGhee. They are parents to a young daughter and two older sons.