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Taking Out ‘Empire’ One Lyon At A Time

The season finale of “Empire” approaches and with it comes a humdinger of a storyline. Enter Tariq Cousins, an FBI agent and childhood friend of the Lyons. Portrayed by Morocco Omari (you may know him from “Homeland”) Tariq’s three-episode story arc so far is a bit of a mystery. But here’s what we do know.

“I can tell you I’m playing an FBI agent who grew up with Lucious and Cookie in Philly and he’s about to investigate them,” says Omari, a Chicago native with theatre roots. “He’s looking to bring down the empire.”

How did Tariq wind up being the good guy here? And, given the twists and turns on the show:  is he really, actually, for real a good guy?

“I really can’t say,” says Omari, slyly. “He became a cop and Lucious became who he is. So you know, friends grow up and take different paths every time. I could have went left, but I went right. It’s that kind of deal.”

It’s also a sweet deal. Snagging a role on “Empire” is as hot a TV ticket right now as getting on anything out of Shondaland or in the worlds of Chicago PD/ER/Med. Of course, Empire does a better job than most at giving Black male characters a properly fleshed out backstory.

“[Some shows] are diverse but a lot times when we get those shows, it’s just like ‘how much do they explore the African-American character’s life?’ ‘What is his home life like?’” says Omari, who is also a producer in talks to shop a show to a major cable network. “They go into the Caucasian actors and their home life and love life but we’re [just] authority figures. It’s like, could we give a brother a love interest? That’s why ‘Luther,’ the [British show] Idris was in, that character was so layered.”

So is Omari’s “Empire” character layered? Does he have a saucy backstory with Cookie perhaps?

“Just keep watching,” says Omari. “I have no idea. Just keep watching. That’s all I can say. I come in and add a little spice to it, a little seasoning on it. It should be interesting.”

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow her at @adriennewrites.