Timbaland & Monique: ‘We’re Making History Together’
By Hardeep Phull. Behind every successful man is a strong woman — and in Fox’s new hip-hop soap opera, “Empire,” the fierce and fabulous Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is the volatile key to Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) vast wealth. But in the shape of music producer Tim “Timbaland” Mosley and his wife/business partner/label CEO Monique, there’s a similar real-life power-couple driving “Empire’s” slick soundtrack and the frequently outrageous costume choices.
Having created hits for Jay-Z and Missy Elliott — and acted as a key figure in Justin Timberlake’s transition from boy-band muppet to pop megastar — Timbaland was “Empire” creator Lee Daniels’ obvious choice to provide music for the show. While Monique came as part of the package, acting as Timbaland’s business manager and overseeing his music contributions, she also was an “Empire” script consultant, adding her knowledge of the music business. But after seeing Monique in action, Daniels also added her as the show’s fashion consultant. (Rita McGhee is the show’s costume designer.)
“When Lee saw me, he would say, ‘Oh my God, you are Cookie!’” she tells The Post. “‘Your fashion sense and business savvy, it’s all Cookie.’ In his head, I was exactly how he had envisioned her character.” That glamorous, over-the-top look epitomized by Cookie often comes straight from Monique’s own closet. “At the dinner scene at Lucious’ house where she stands up to speak, Cookie wore a Gucci dress and shoes that were my own, but that I had never actually worn,” Monique says. “Now I’m wondering why!”
Timbaland, by contrast, doesn’t have quite the same luxury of being able to dive into his stash of unused beats. The producer, who is used to working in the studio at his own steady and methodical pace, admits to being challenged by the speed of television. “We’ll get a script in late, they’ll need a song by the next day or the day after,” he explains. “There’s no time to think too much about anything. It’s an adrenaline rush. I’m still learning how it works.” He does have help: a small army of around 10 producers and friends he calls “Team Timbo,” with whom the intense labor is shared.
“They’re like my X-Men, and I’m the Professor Charles (Xavier),” he laughs. Despite their other business interests (not to mention their young daughter and Monique’s two older sons from a previous relationship), “Empire” is taking up most of the couple’s time, and the workload is only likely to increase. Fox has already renewed “Empire” for a second season, and the series, which premiered Jan. 7, has grown each week, hitting a high of 11 million viewers Jan. 28 and easily winning its timeslot. “We’re making history together,” says Timbaland.