EMPIRE Stars Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Gray Bring a Touch of Home to Service Members and Their Families on USO Tour to Japan

Trio tours work units, visits military kids and hosts holiday-inspired White Parties - complete with EMPIRE Q&A, free giveaways and a USO concert


ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 16, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The USO and Twentieth Century FOX know there is nothing more important than family, which is why they joined forces and recently sent three members of EMPIRE's beloved "Lyon Family" (played by actors/musicians Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Gray) to Japan to visit, entertain and bring a touch of home to service members this holiday season. After leaving millions of viewers around the world on the edge of their seats with their mid-season finale on December 2nd, the castmates kicked off their hiatus from filming by volunteering with the USO and extending their heartfelt gratitude to service men and women stationed abroad. This trip marked the first USO tour for the trio, who all share personal ties to the military. ***USO photo link below***


• During the group's week-long USO tour, the trio visited hundreds of sailors, airmen and military families stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Yokota Air Base and Misawa Air Base.

• The EMPIRE cast began their trip with a visit to the flight line, where they met with the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Five One "Warlords" and the Strike Fighter Squadron One Nine Five; and even climbed inside a military aircraft.

• The group then participated in USO meet & greets, ate dinner in the DFAC, met with base leadership, spoke with youth at Yokota High School and even hosted two family-friendly White Parties – complete with an EMPIRE Q &A, free giveaways and a USO concert featuring Smollett and Gray.

• Today, Henson, Smollett and Gray wrapped up their USO adventure with a visit to Misawa Air Base – where they spent time with more military units and treated military personnel with yet another White Party in a show of their thanks.

• Having taken TV audiences by storm in its record-setting first season, EMPIRE entered its second season as the No. 1 series on broadcast television. From its jaw-dropping storylines to its chart-topping hip-hop soundtrack, EMPIRE instantly gained a legion of die-hard fans, creating a social media frenzy and making "Cookie" a household name.

• EMPIRE stars Terrence Howard as "Lucious Lyon," the king of hip-hop. An immensely talented artist, the CEO of Empire Entertainment and a former street thug, "Lucious'" reign has been unchallenged for years. But, after battling what he believed to be a terminal disease, "Lucious" challenged his sons (Jussie Smollett as "Jamal," Bryshere "Yazz" Gray as "Hakeem," and Trai Byers as "Andre") to compete for his throne, a task made all the more complicated by the return of their mother and "Lucious'" ex-wife, "Cookie" (Taraji P. Henson), who was released from prison.

• Born and raised in Washington, DC, Taraji P. Henson has starred in a string of box office hits including No Good Deed opposite Idris Alba; Think Like a Man and Think Like a Man Too starring Kevin Hart; Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks, The Karate Kid featuring Jaden Smith, I Can Do Bad All By Myself starring Tyler Perry, Smokin' Aces with Ryan Reynolds, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button opposite Brad Pitt in which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Recently nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of "Cookie Lyon," Henson can next be seen in the film Term Life with Vince Vaughn.

• An accomplished actor, singer and songwriter, Jussie Smollett began his career in the entertainment industry at the age of six after co-starring in The Mighty Ducks and Rob Reiner's North. Since then, he has gone on to appear in numerous movies and television shows, to include Alex Haley's Queen, the drama series Revenge and the romantic comedy sitcom The Mindy Project. Coming up, Smollett can be seen in the pre-Civil War series Underground on WGN America.

• An accomplished musician, Bryshere Gray – also known as "Yazz" – Gray has performed at Jay-Z's 2013 Man in America Festival, Sunoco's Welcome America 4th of July Celebration, the annual Roots Picnic Festival, his hometown of Philadelphia's signature annual ODUNDE Celebration, and Power 99's 2013 Powerhouse concert. Gray has also opened for rappers Fabulous and 2 Chainz.


Attributed to Taraji P. Henson:

"My father was a Vietnam vet and I have a cousin that's in the Navy, he is still active. He never comes home for Christmas; so that was a huge reason why I felt the need to come over here. I just thought about how much we missed him every Christmas and how many other families are missing their loved ones stationed overseas. This trip is a good way to pay homage to all those who risk their lives for us (my cousin included) and to let you guys know how much you are appreciated."

Henson adds…

"Thank you is not enough. Hopefully the thank you comes across in us entertaining you guys."

Attributed to Jussie Smollett:

"My uncle served in Vietnam, he was in the Navy; so just hearing his stories of all these women and men who were so selfless, and just gave of themselves. And not just the women and men who serve but also their families… they give up so, so much for all of us, it's pretty incredible."

Smollett adds…

"We spend so many hours working and so many hours traveling, and when we get tired and we see people like this… you realize what we do is nothing, it's nothing… compared to what these women and men do every single day…. it's important for us to give back."

Attributed to Bryshere Gray:

"I have two uncles who are in the military. So, today, just coming here… was very powerful. I have a lot of respect for the military."

Gray adds…

"I've never been to Japan, this is my first time here and the experience has been great. It's been life-changing."


USO Photos: http://bit.ly/1Tmc20i

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About the USO

The USO strengthens America's military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort, and support. The USO is a private, non-profit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

In addition to individual donors and corporate sponsors, the USO is supported by President's Circle Partners: AT &T, the BNSF Railway Foundation, Clark Construction Group, LLC, The Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson, Kroger, NFL and Four-Star Partners: BIC, ConAgra Foods, FedEx, GEICO, JCPenney, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, TKS and the Wawa Foundation. We are also supported through the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-11381). To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, please visit uso.org.

A photo accompanying this release is available at:




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