Empire star Terrence Howard shares about his dark past and how he has moved past it

Terrence Howard knows he isn’t perfect.

“I’ve made terrible mistakes throughout my life,” the Empire star, 48, says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I was dragging baggage with me that was crippling me mentally and physically. But I finally feel I can put that to rest. I can breathe again.”

From childhood, Howard had been exposed to the violent side of human nature. At the age of 2, he saw his father, Tyrone, fatally stab a man while their families waited in line to see Santa Claus at a mall in Cleveland.

Tyrone, a carpenter, served 11 months in prison. Howard’s mother, Anita, filed for divorce after his release, but he remained a force in their lives.

“My dad whooped me every day until I was 14,” says the actor, who grew up poor with three brothers. “Then he said, ‘The street will whoop you from now on.’ ”

He was right. A sensitive child with “a big mouth,” living in the projects, “the kids would do horrible things to animals in the neighborhood,” Howard recalls. “I’d try and save them and take the beating instead.”

But in his adult life, Howard became the one that was physically violent.

In 2001 he admitted to hitting his first wife, Lori, and in 2013 his second wife Michelle Ghent was granted a restraining order against him on the grounds that he hit and kicked her during a family vacation and threatened to kill her. (Howard has claimed self-defense in regards to the Ghent altercation and in a 2015 divorce hearing his lawyer argued that he signed their spousal support agreement “under duress.” The judge called Howard a “bully” but ruled in the actor’s favor. The decision is currently under appeal.)

But, instigated by the death of his mother in 2008, Howard has spent the last few years on a path of self-reflection.

“I was raised believing the man is in charge, but I’ve realized marriage should be an equal partnership,” says the actor.

By the time he met his third wife, Mira, in 2013, Howard — who was once a Muslim and contemplated becoming a Jehovah’s Witness like his first wife and their three children — had given up organized religion and found “truth” in nature and science.

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“Two weeks after meeting Mira, I gathered up things associated with my past and found a nice hill and buried them all there,” he says.

A week later, he proposed. “Mira settled me,” Howard says of his wife, 39, a former model and restaurateur.

“Our marriage is effortless,” she adds. “Relationships are hard work, but we really don’t fight.”

Stress is still a factor in Howard’s life, but he’s found a unique way of managing it.

“I’ll just watch a tree’s limbs sway back and forth or take my shoes off and put my hands on a tree,” he says. “It makes me feel part of the whole.”

By keeping his stress in check, his Southern California home with Mira — which is now complete with their sons Qirin, 22 months, and Hero, 7 months — is a peaceful one.
“He refuses to kill a fly,” Mira says of Howard. “And we’re trying to teach our kids not to pick flowers.”

“I know in those two weeks or month of a fly’s life, that’s 80 years for them. And we smash them so quickly. I hope if someone saw me trapped, some bigger creature would help me,” explains Howard.

And Howard admits he’s not above needing help. “I still have growing to do,” Howard says. “I just hope the mistakes I make now are smarter mistakes.”

Empire returns to Fox Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

 

-Essence

Is Jamal on hot TV drama series, ‘Empire’ dead?

Last night’s penultimate episode of Empire Season 2, Episode 17 (“Rise by Sin”) ended with Jamal in the hospital after being accidentally shot by Freda Gatz, who had been aiming at Lucious.

Right now, Jamal is still clinging to life, but will he survive next week’s finale?

Actor Jussie Smollett is doing his best to convince you his character is a goner, tweeting about how he’s “enjoyed [his] time with” the show, and writing that it’s time for him to work on other projects.

Even leaving aside arguments like “why in the world would the show kill off its most popular character?!” there’s plenty of evidence Jamal will make it through next week.

The synopsis for the episode says “after a life-changing experience, Jamal refuses to make music until his family ends its seemingly endless cycle of violence and fighting.”

That reads like someone who has survived being shot and is hella pissed off, not someone still on the verge of death.

Showrunner Ilene Chaiken spoke to Variety about the finale, saying, “What happens next is about the consequences. Clearly, Jamal has been shot. It’s serious. It’s life-threatening. It happened because of everything that we’ve seen in the course of the season and all of the things that Lucious and Cookie have done, and the way they’ve lived their lives.”

Yes, she calls the shooting “life threatening” but still, that sounds to us like the Lyons are shaken by what happened to their son, not absolutely devastated the way they would be if he died.

As the promo shows, Hakeem and Laura are going forward with their wedding. We’re pretty sure there’s no way that would happen so soon if Jamal died. Hakeem, for all his faults, loves his brothers like crazy; he would postpone the nuptials if he lost one of them.

 

 

-Wetpaint