Look up any of Gabourey Sidibe’s on-camera interviews and you’ll see her animated storytelling, creating TV magic every time. She could easily be a talk show host or a stand-up comedienne, but the 31-year-old sees herself in a slightly different manner—more clumsy than cool. The Oscar-nominated actress stars in the Fox midseason drama Empire about the rise and possible fall of the Lyon family’s music dynasty. Sidibe checked in with EBONY to reveal which resolution she’s bound to break in the new year, who’s the best rapper on the set of her new show and how cussing can truly help you heal.

Tell us about your character. What makes her so intriguing?
I play Becky, the assistant to Terrence Howard’s character, a music mogul named Lucious. She’s privy to a lot of private things about him, even more so than his sons. Keeping his life together becomes her life in some ways. And she’s very loyal.  

Empire takes place in the hip-hop world. Between takes, were you all having freestyle battles? Who has the hottest 16 bars of the cast?
Oh, I always have a hot 16 loaded and ready to go. You’re going to get these verses no matter what set I’m on. [Laughs] No, but really, we’re constantly having fun behind the scenes. We actually have a hip-hop consultant on the show, Monique Mosley. She’s married to Timbaland, who provides the music for the series.

What’s one interesting bit of hip-hop knowledge you’ve learned since working on the show?
Rappers require a lot of security and pay off a bunch of people so they don’t get robbed while on tour. It’s like a hidden hip-hop tax.

Read more in the February issue of EBONY Magazine.