Empire has had a LOT of guest stars in its day but very few with the O.G. TV veteran status of Phylicia Rashad. Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), with her broom beatdowns and one-liners, is the hip-hop generation's fierce Mama Bear but let's be real: one potent glare from Clair Huxtable could turn Cookie Lyon into a pillar of salt under a fur coat.
Of course, Rashad won't be playing Clair when she makes her Empire appearance on Nov. 16. She's playing Diana Dubois (whose name alone sounds like putting on a silk robe while holding a flute of champagne after delicately stepping out of the bathtub). She'll appear in several episodes this season; she's the mother of Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs), the city councilman who's been lobbying for a seat in Cookie's heart over the past few episodes.
Cookie, you'll remember, has already been feeling heat from Angelo's bourgeois friends, who basically treated her like she pulled homemade catfish nuggets out of her pocketbook at a black-tie gala. In these exclusive photos from Fox, Angelo is evidently introducing Cookie to his no doubt disapproving mother for the first time, and though we can't hear what they're saying, these photos say quite a bit. Shall we dig in?
Let's talk about Diana's pantsuit. Sturdy. Timeless. Hillary-esque. 5th Avenue realness. Also, it's crimson, as if to let Cookie know she's classy and will read for blood. And that matching pocketbook! The queen of England could never. Okay. Moving on to that coif. It's Anita Baker album cover fresh, with that little swoopy tendril in front hinting at a coquettish spirit underneath her polished exterior. Nobody in the room is worthy, tbh.
Then there's Cookie, who subconsciously sought to protect her sensitive throat chakra by covering it with a symbol of demure femininity, because she knows Diana Dubois don't play. It remains to be seen what Diana Dubois thinks about gigantic acrylic flowers, but we're gonna guess "not much." Word to the wise, Cookie: consider sleeves the next time you meet mom! Anyway, it's clear from what we're seeing here that someone has just walked in the room and the look on Diana's face says something like, "Oh, are the people from your spades tournament here so soon?"
In another shot, we see Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), whose "Gerald from Hey Arnold" hightop fade, albeit expertly detailed, is probably not making Diana Dubois' knees buckle in amazement. You'll notice Jamal (Jussie Smollett) wearing the same shade as her (a nod, maybe, to Jamal being the one Lyon with a modicum of social grace) and standing next to her. Diana Dubois would probably prefer Angelo date Jamal than Cookie, but whatever.
Now Cookie is holding a baby, which we can reasonably assume is Bella, Hakeem's daughter/sister he had with his jump-off turned step-mom Anika (Geace Gealey). It's doubtful that Diana Dubois has already been briefed on how messy that situation is, but it certainly would explain that smug smile on her face in this photo. "So this is your out-of-wedlock granddaughter your son had with his father's wife?" she could be saying. "Isn't that lovely. Angelo, may I have a word?"
What do you think is going down?
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Fox.