Mo’Nique: ‘Empire’ Cookie Role Offered To Me First

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Taraji P. Henson playing Cookie on “Empire,” but according to Mo’Nique, she was offered the role first.

Mo’Nique appeared on Access Hollywood Live to promote her new project “Blackbird” on Tuesday, but she also spoke very candidly about how her career has been affected since winning the Academy Award in 2009 for “Precious,” as well as her relationship with film’s director, Lee Daniels, and if she feels she’s been blackballed in Hollywood.

“There is absolutely no beef, and I never believed, nor did I ever say, that I was blackballed. It’s a statement that Mr. Daniels made to me, so by no means, do I think that I have been blackballed from Hollywood,” the actress was quick to point out to Billy Bush and Kit Hoover.

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According to Mo’Nique, issues arose when she was asked by the studio to do extra promotional work for “Precious.” She explained that she was asked three times to attend the Cannes Film Festival to support the project and when she was told she would not be compensated, she declined.

“I fulfilled all of my obligations. No one has ever said, not Mr. Daniels, not the studio, no one has ever said Mo’nique was in breach of her contract. I fulfilled all of my obligations. It was extras that they then wanted me to do… when you work Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week and then your boss calls you up and says, ‘We need you to come in on Saturday and work for 10 hours,’ do you do that for free? Or do you say, ‘What am I going to be paid for coming in on Saturday and working 10 hours?’ All I was saying is, ‘Guys, I don’t want to work for free.’ I was paid $50,000 to do this movie, and I’m not complaining because I signed up to do it with my friend,” she said, referring to Daniels.

Mo’Nique then explained how the “Precious” promotional campaign issue has played out with two other major Daniels’ projects, “The Butler” and TV’s “Empire.” According to the actress, she was offered roles in both projects.

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“I really don’t know what happened in reference to ‘The Butler.’ Mr. Daniels and I had a conversation. I had the script, the email that goes along with it in reference to the character, read the script, loved it. Then I never heard from Mr. Daniels again, and the next I saw was that Oprah Winfrey is now playing the part,” she told Billy and Kit.

Mo’Nique claimed a similar situation went down with the role of Cookie on Fox’s “Empire,” which went to Taraji.

“Mr. Daniels offered me the part of Cookie, and I have the emails and the sides to go along with it, and what he said was, ‘I’m new to this TV thing. This is just a technicality… you have the role.’ Okay. I have the emails. Well, four days have gone by because I didn’t receive a phone call or another email for the location of where I was supposed to go to do this screen test,” Mo’Nique said.

READ: Lee Daniels Wants To Expose Homophobia In ‘Empire’

Mo’Nique claimed that the director was told by the network that they felt she was difficult to work with, which led to her not getting the role.

But “Empire” executive producer and “The Butler” screenwriter Danny Strong shot down Mo’Nique’s claims last week.

Despite the alleged casting issues, Mo’Nique sang the praises of the Fox rating’s hit.

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“Let me say this and be clear. Please support that show. Please support my brother Lee, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson and that whole cast because what they’re doing right now is absolutely amazing, and they’re breaking records. I don’t want anybody to think for a second that there is an issue with myself and the show ‘Empire,'” she said.

So where do Mo’Nique and the director stand today?

“My relationship with Lee Daniels is I love that brother. I also have empathy for my brother because when I watch him do interviews and I watch him say things that he and I both know that they’re inaccurate, that makes me have empathy,” the actress said.

Access has reached out for comment from Fox.

— Jesse Spero

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