During the first season of Fox’s hit drama “Empire” last winter, Lucious Lyon’s identity as anti-hero was firmly cemented: The former drug dealer murdered an old pal, cheated on his fiancée, gay-bashed one of his sons, hid information that could sabotage his company’s IPO and was revealed to have fathered a child by a son’s ex-girlfriend — while she was still dating the son.
The man who plays the dastardly Lucious, Terrence Howard, had no trouble identifying with the character. In a story published this past week, he told Rolling Stone: “Since they see me as a bad guy, I’m gonna play a bad guy.”
Indeed, Howard, 46, has a history of violence that nearly rivals that of Lucious. Since 2000, the actor’s rap sheet has included multiple charges of assault.
Those cases have come back to light over the past month, as Howard was in court seeking to overturn a settlement in his 2013 divorce from second wife Michelle Ghent, who has alleged on multiple occasions that he assaulted her.
As one TV executive tells The Post: “It’s an industry joke that he collects more assault raps than acting accolades.”
Page Six reported in August that the incarceration of Howard’s “Empire” character has given the show’s producers an excuse to minimize his screen time when the show returns Wednesday.
Fox representatives say rumors that Howard’s role will be scaled back are “patently untrue,” and network co-CEO and chairman Dana Walden has been effusive in her support of the controversial star. “Our experience with Terrence has been excellent,” she says.
But other Hollywood insiders who have worked with Howard tell a different story.
“Terrence has this reputation for being a hothead,” a TV exec says.
“I don’t think ‘anger issues’ quite covers it,” a former associate of Howard’s tells The Post. “Terrence has to be in control of everything, all the time. When he doesn’t get his way, he loses his s – – t very easily.
“Once, Terrence found out that some of his scenes from a movie were being cut and he was furious. He marched up to the director and started arguing with him like it was some great injustice.”
In 2008, it was announced that the actor would not be reprising his role as Robert Downey Jr.’s sidekick in the sequel to “Iron Man.” Howard insists that he was pushed out over his refusal to take a significant pay cut, and laid the blame on former co-star Downey.
(Marvel Studios has publicly disputed the salary cut.)
“It turns out that the person I helped become Iron Man . . . when it was time to re-up for the second one, [he] took the money that was supposed to go to me,” Howard told Bravo’s Andy Cohen.
“He thinks that he is truly God’s gift to women, and he expects subservience.”
A movie industry insider explains things differently. “On a big-budget movie like that . . . they don’t have time for drama and inflated egos,” the insider reveals. “Terrence is, without question, a very talented actor, but he is very opinionated and can upset people. As he found out, in Hollywood, everyone is replaceable.”
Howard’s path to Tinseltown wasn’t the smoothest. In 1971, his father, Tyrone, took 2-year-old Terrence and his siblings to see Santa Claus at a department store in Cleveland, Ohio. A fight broke out over accusations about cutting in line, and Tyrone was convicted of manslaughter in the death of a man. (Tyrone Howard served 11 months in prison for the crime.)
At the age of 16, Howard emancipated himself from his family; two years later, he moved to New York. His acting break came when he landed a small part on “The Cosby Show” at the age of 19. He told the New York Times in 2001:
“They cut me out of the show. I was angry. I banged on Cosby’s dressing-room door, and amazingly, he answered. I told him, ‘I’m a man just like you.’ He didn’t like it, and the casting agent never took my calls again. That’s the mold for the rest of my professional life. I say the hell with it, and I suffer the consequences.’’
Howard’s attitude has also left him with a string of broken relationships. “He thinks that he is truly God’s gift to women, and he expects subservience,” says a source.
He faced charges of simple assault, terroristic threats, harassment and stalking after breaking down the door of estranged first wife Lori McCommas — to whom he was married from 1989 to 2003 and again from 2005 to 2007 — and punching her in the face, according to a police report.
The actor later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and admitted in Rolling Stone: “She was talking to me real strong, and I lost my mind and slapped her in front of the kids.” Howard disputes punching McCommas, but told the magazine “even slapping her was wrong.”
According to reports, in a 2011 divorce petition, his second wife, Michelle Ghent, alleged that the actor “slugged” her in the face, made repeated threats against her and infected her with herpes. (As reported in The Daily News, Howard stated in court that either he gave Ghent herpes or she gave it to him.)
Ghent was granted a restraining order, but the couple reconciled in 2013. They split again soon after, and Ghent claimed that Howard gave her a black eye. He claimed in court that Ghent had Maced him, and that he “caught her” while trying to blindly bat her away, but that he “wasn’t trying to hit her.” She was again granted a restraining order.
Last month, Ghent had her spousal support overturned. Howard accused her of blackmail and threatening to leak images of his penis. (Ghent denied this in a deposition.)
People magazine reported that allegations of the actor’s suicide threats were heard in court — where the judge advised Howard to “show some restraint” and “cool your jets” — and he acknowledged using marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy with his ex-wife.
Howard’s bad behavior isn’t just inflicted upon wives and co-workers.
In 2000, the actor allegedly assaulted a Continental Airlines flight attendant who told him to return to his seat during a flight. (Howard spent the night in jail, but the misdemeanor charge was dropped due to a lack of jurisdiction. He told Oprah Winfrey in 2005, on her talk show, that he “never” assaulted the woman.)
He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2005 after attacking two strangers — a man and a woman — at a Philadelphia restaurant when the woman accused him of cutting in line. Howard told Rolling Stone that he was never in line and acted in self-defense.
It was also revealed that Howard’s third wife, Mira Pak, was granted a “quickie” divorce in July on grounds of irreconcilable differences. (The two married in 2013.)
An industry source says of Howard and his history, “Ultimately, audiences will only trust so many denials, and TV people have to tread carefully now. Nobody wants to be dealing with the next Bill Cosby situation.”
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