When viewers first met Tory Ash on Empire she was in rehab and hopefully kicking her drug addiction while becoming besties with Jamal. But as soon as she sang, it was pretty obvious who she was supposed to be modeled after. Even though they are some big shoes to fill, is Tory Ash from Empire based on Amy Winehouse? Rumer Willis’ character definitely sounds like the soulful singer who passed away in 2011 and after the most recent episode, it’s hard to ignore the physical similarities as well.
According to Willis in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tory on is, in fact, based on Winehouse and she was even told as much by her agents when she was offered the role. "I was on tour, and I had a layover day in New York," Willis said. "My agents had reached out to me and said, 'Hey, there's this role on Empire to do this Amy Winehouse-type rock star.' I was like, 'I don't need to see anything else. I'm going in. I don't care if I'm tired.'"
It totally makes sense though, since Jussie Smollett (Jamal) told Variety that after he saw an Instagram video of Willis singing an Amy Winehouse song, he told producers right away and from there, it was decided that they would bring Willis in to sing for them.
Of course, it also helps that not only can Willis sing, but she can also act and has appeared on TV shows like 90210 and Hawaii Five-0 in addition to her big screen experience in The House Bunny and Sorority Row. On Empire, it’s been hard to ignore the parallels between Tory’s life and the late singer's own career. From her drug addiction that Tory luckily went to rehab for, to her soulful voice that’s so hard to deny because of the familiarity, it’s becoming more apparent that Tory on Empire is supposed to be their version of Winehouse.
Much like Tiana has been a perfect younger Rihanna, this wouldn't be Empire’s first time bringing their own version of a huge music star to the show, but with their own twist. Willis also told The Hollywood Reporter in the same interview that she wanted to make sure she knew where the show intended on taking the character as her story arc progressed.
"I didn't want to model it or imitate anybody or someone else's life so when I got to Chicago, I sat down with the writers and asked them about what their thoughts were," she said. "[Tory's] also evolving as the season goes on, so I'm excited to see where it goes."
So far, Tory has already been a strong force on Empire. Though the basis for Willis’ character was Winehouse, there’s obviously a lot more they hope to do with her in terms of development.