BUILDING AN EMPIRE
On screens large or small, Terrence Howard always makes an enormous impact. A big part of his success: heeding the sage advice of respected elders.
The smoldering persona that made actor Terrence Howard an international star first broke free in the 1995 drama “Dead Presidents.” Over the last two decades, his incomparable ability to bring characters to life has contributed to a beloved franchise (“The Best Man” movies), delivered an Oscar-nominated performance (“Hustle & Flow”), and anchored a runaway television hit (“Empire,” which returns March 30).
In an appearance on “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” Howard reflected on what it takes to become successful in Hollywood. Using an — ahem — unusual metaphor, he said, “It’s like the sperm’s efforts to try to get to the egg. The biggest hurdle in becoming an actor is having your own confidence and trust in your instincts. Just how the sperm races against billions of his own brothers and sisters to get to the egg. It’s about building the confidence in yourself so you don’t need to listen to this person or that person. If you can beat a half-billion or your own brothers and sisters, then you can accomplish anything in life.”
That competitive approach has been a driving force from the time Howard left his hometown of Chicago at a very young age, to pursue an acting career in New York. The best advice he ever received, he recalls, was at the age of 14. The source: his great-great grandmother. “We used to call her, ‘Mother,’” he said. “She told me to always remember, ‘If you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Don’t do nothing at all. Just be still — just be still.’ That advice has gotten me a long way in my career to get out of bad situations. It kept me from saying things when I didn’t know what to do. I just shut my mouth.”
And she wasn’t the only one whose words stuck. An uncle gave him an inspiringly regal directive that has informed his journey every step of the way.
“My uncle would tell me, ‘Terrence, you are a young prince and someday you will grow up to be a king,’” he said. “You must maintain your majestic composure. No matter what you do, always do it as a king. If it is crying, loving, or dying — you must do it as a king.”