Empire gives its guest stars a chance to showcase their singing voices in addition to their acting chops. Last season, Rumer Willis proved herself to be a triple threat when the Dancing with the Stars winner sang as the Amy Winehouse-esque Tory Ash. This season, Forest Whitaker will be a prominent guest star. He's playing Uncle Eddie, a former mentor for Lucious. Seeing as he's playing a musician, viewers can assume the character will sing. But can Whitaker himself hold a tune? Can Forest Whitaker really sing? The Empire guest star has shown off his voice in roles before.
The season premiere, "Noble Memory," portrayed how hard Lucious' struggle this season will be. After the car explosion incident, he was left with amnesia. The rest of the Lyons are trying to coach him through to help him get his memory back, but it doesn't seem to be working. They're showing him everything: old photos, songs — he's still in the dark. The only person Lucious really wants to be around is his nurse, Claudia. Whitaker's Uncle Eddie will reunite with Lucious in an attempt to help him remember. According to Variety, Uncle Eddie is a music legend. He gave an unknown Lucious Lyon his first radio airplay. The Lyons are hoping his presence will jar Lucious' memories of when he was a young rapper.
Whitaker's role is especially important to Lucious actor Terrence Howard. Just how Uncle Eddie was a mentor for Lucious, Whitaker was a mentor to Howard when he was starting out. Howard told Variety:
The role I played in Crash was originally Forest’s role, and Forest had stepped out to do his directorial debut and recommended me for that character. So for Forest to play a mentor for Lucious [is extra special]. We haven’t seen a lot of Lucious’ past collaborators.
But while Whitaker is an Academy Award-winning actor, is his singing talent as great as his acting talent? He not only will sing in Empire, but he studied singing in college. While attending California State Polytechnic University, he changed his major to music after suffering a football injury. He toured England with the Cal Poly Chamber Singers in 1980. In his episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he said that he was accepted to the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern California to study opera, but he went to the school's Drama Conservatory instead for acting. So, it's safe to say that he can stand on his own on the show.
Empire will not be Whitaker's first musical role. In 2013, he sang alongside heavyweights like Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige in Black Nativity. According to Empire executive producer Ilene Chaiken, her team knew about Whitaker's talents. "We knew that he was very musical and we asked him whether he wanted to sing on the show," she said during the Television Critics Association press tour.
Fellow executive producer Lee Daniels said that Whitaker went above and beyond expectations. "Forest is going to stun you," Daniels told TV Insider. "I’ve admired the guy forever — and even directed him in The Butler — but I had no idea he could sing so beautifully." As it turns out, Whitaker is indeed multitalented. I'm excited to see him both act and sing on Empire. Hopefully, Uncle Eddie will be able to help Lucious regain some memories.
The Lyons are having a hard time, so maybe someone from Lucious' past will be of better help. Even if he doesn't, though, I'm going to revel in seeing Whitaker act — and sing — on my television screen.
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