OnlyOnAOL: What it's like having 'Empire' Cookie as your mom

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By: Donna Freydkin

The third season of the Fox smash "Empire" premieres Wednesday. And let's just say: the Lyon family is in disarray.

Perhaps no one has it tougher than Jamal, the openly-gay son reviled by his father, ruthless music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). His biggest ally is mama Cookie (Taraji P. Henson).

At the end of season two, Jamal had been shot, after an ugly altercation with his dad – which was improvised, as it turns out, because Howard and Smollett are incredibly close in person.

We asked Smollett, a quick-witted, stylish, and jaw-droppingly funny guy, about working his Henson.

"So many things that I've been through on this journey so far, she's been through in her way," he said.

His own father died when the show premiered, and Henson was dealing with a tragedy in her own family. And then, of course, Smollett came out to Ellen DeGeneres.

"I think I have thick skin. Taraji is there to be like, '(Expletive) 'em.' Before I talked to Ellen, she was like, '(Expletive) them. Why do you have to say (expletive)? Why do you have to announce that (expletive) to the world?' That's how I feel. She echoes so many things I hear from my real-life mother, my real-life sister," said Smollett.

In summary: "She's as real as they come."

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Jussie Smollett does AOL BUILD
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Jussie Smollett does AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Jussie Smollett attends The Build Series to discuss 'Empire' at AOL HQ on September 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
Jussie Smollett at AOL BUILD
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