The eyes say it all. When you see a film with Terrence Howard, you know he’s poured his heart and soul into the role. Howard has shaped shifted into a number of witty, dynamic, and intense characters over the years, from the infamous drug dealer, turned hip-hop star DJay in 2005’s Hustle & Flow to the determined and resilient real-life swim coach Jim Ellis in Pride, who formed the first African American Swim team in Marcus Foster Reaction Center in Pennsylvania in 1971. Howard never backs down from a challenge onscreen. While some African American actors have complained of Hollywood’s sparse inclusivity when it comes to roles, Howard has argued the opposite.
“The door has always been open for us,” the “Fighting” alum told Today during an interview in 2007. “But open how much and how are you going to take advantage of that door being open? Are you just going to peek in? Are you going to politely knock or are you going to walk in with a smile or are you going to walk in there with a sense of entitlement saying you owe this to me? Don’t nobody owe you jack! The only person who owes something to you is you. You get what you deserve and you demand what you deserve.”
The passionate performer has certainly done just that.
Terrence Howard’s Early Life
Terrence Howard was born on March 11, 1969, to parents Anita Jeanine Williams (née Hawkins) and Tyrone Howard. “My father was half-White and half-Black with sky-blue eyes and wavy hair,” the star recalled of his father in a previous interview, according to IMBD. “They called him no-nation. He hated Whites and told us to be cautious of them.”
Life wasn’t always easy for the star. Howard grew up in poverty and in 1971, the actor witnessed his father stab a man to death with a nail file outside of a store at the age of two. “I was standing next to my father, watching,” Howard recalled to Rolling Stone of seeing his father’s argument with the unknown man turn fatal. “Then stuff happened so quickly — blood was on the coats, on our jackets — and then my dad’s on a table and then my dad is gone to prison.” Tyrone Howard spent 11 months behind bars for the deadly incident.
Howard spent his early life in Cleveland, Ohio, often traveling to New York for the summer to spend time with his great-grandmother and stage actress Minnie Gentry. Howard landed his first role on The Bill Cosby Show in 1984 after a casting director discovered him on the street at just 15-years-old. However, the excitement was short-lived when he discovered all of his scenes had been deleted upon the episode’s airing.
“I got on the show after begging the casting person to see me. We did the episode, I told all my friends it was coming on, and then they cut me out at the last minute,” he explained in a previous interview. “I was furious. So the next day, I went to Mr. Cosby’s dressing room and asked him why I got cut out. He didn’t seem to appreciate that too much. I never got back on the show again.”
While in high school, the Ohio native developed a short battle with Bell’s Palsy that partially paralyzed the right side of his face, but the issue naturally went away on its own, well, that was after the bold performer took matters into his own hands. Howard shocked himself multiple times with small electrical currents from his dad’s razor in the affected area for “months” and he claimed it helped to cure the condition.
“I did that every day for five months and then I felt the slightest little twitch inside,” Howard also revealed to Rolling Stones. He later attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for chemical engineering, but his Hollywood dreams never strayed away. In fact, the determined actor went on to appear in notable movies and TV shows such as Living Single (1993), NYPD Blue (1993), and Soul Food (2000). He also became well known for his lead role in the UPN TV series Sparks (1996).
The star made his Hollywood debut in 1995’s Mr. Holland’s Opus, but that same year, Howard shined on screen as “Cowboy” in the riveting crime drama Dead Presidents. The actor went on to star in films such as Iron Man, Ray, where he showed off his real-life piano and guitar skills, and Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man, which earned him an NAACP Image Award and a Chicago Film Critics Award nomination among other accolades, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in Hustle & Flow.
Fans were captivated by the star as the cunning and street smart “Lucious Lyon” on the hit show Empire, which ran for nearly 5 years on Fox television.
“Everything I do with Lucious is still me,” Howard explained of his iconic role. “I just change the vibration. Because Lucious has a very base understanding of life — kill or be killed — I keep him down at a very low frequency.”
The actor hasn’t appeared in too many films recently, but Howard is expected to return to the big screen when The Best Man spin-off series hits NBC’s streaming platform Peacock in the near future. Back in February 2021, the network announced that they would be creating a 10-episode dramedy series called The Best Man: Final Chapters based on the classic 1999 film. According to reports, the show will reunite Howard with all of the film’s original cast members including Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Melissa De Sousa, and Harold Perrineau for the buzzing limited TV series. The show will reportedly pick up where The Best Man 2 left off, as Harper, Robyn, Jordan, Lance, Quentin, Shelby, Candace, and Murch navigate through their evolving relationships and some past grievances. Now that they’re all grown up, fans get a chance to see the film’s pivotal characters chart through the choppy waters of adulthood while experiencing a “midlife renaissance.” The spinoff series is written and executive produced by the film’s original director, Malcolm D. Lee, and Dayna Lynne North.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Howard has made $5 million from his film portfolio and he was reportedly paid $175,000 per episode while working on Empire. That’s “roughly $4 million per season before taxes,” the site claims.