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Lee Daniels has never been afraid to speak his mind, and the Empire creator’s frank talk makes him an interview favorite. Popular Empire star Terrence Howard has been battling a bit of an image problem connected with domestic issues, but Daniels defended the actor in a recent interview.

Daniels sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for an exclusive chat, sharing behind-the-scenes details of Empire‘s upcoming season, new additions to the overall machine, and speaking quite sternly about Howard’s situation.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

But somewhere between take two and take 12, a “Page Six” item suggesting Howard’s screen time is being “scaled back because of his recent divorce drama and numerous prior allegations of domestic abuse” begins circulating online. All summer long, the New York Post — which, like Empire, is a product of Rupert Murdoch — kept up a steady drumbeat of items about Howard’s bitter battle with his second wife and a reported divorce from his third. When I connect with Walden a few weeks later, she emphatically denies the report. “Taraji and Terrence are the leads of this show, they are at the center of Empire, and we would never look to displace Terrence from that position,” she says, suggesting that Howard’s role is, if anything, greater this season than last since he’s doing significantly more performing and songwriting. “Honestly,” she adds, “it was a silly item that will be completely disproved once the show is on the air.”

The embattled actor has, however, reduced his press availability, presumably fearing questions will shift toward his offscreen drama as they did in a recent Rolling Stone profile. His co-stars have been advised not to comment on the ongoing saga, but Daniels can’t help himself. “That poor boy,” he says, fiercely protective of his actor. He then alludes to other actors who have been the subject of domestic abuse allegations in the past. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” says Daniels. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

It’s a good time for Empire as the hit Fox show has made stars out of its leads Howard, who plays music mogul Lucious Lyon, and Taraji P. Henson, who is up for an Emmy this coming Sunday for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The 45-year-old actress has been electrifying as Cookie Lyon, and fans are clamoring for her to win.

For more of Daniels’ interview with The Hollywood Reporter, follow this link.

Photo: WENN