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Nothing quite prepared me for working with Lee Daniels. Two years ago, I stepped onto the set of The Butler for my first appearance in a movie in 15 years. Lee was directing my first scene when he suddenly came from behind the camera, rushed over to me and shouted, “Stop acting!”

That’s the reason actors love working with Lee. He forces you, in every breath, to stay in character. To find the bone-marrow truth in every scene, no matter what it takes to get there. He’s a truth seeker. “Less is more” is his credo. “Give me 1/8 of that” is one of my favorite notes from him.

And now with the runaway success of Fox’s Empire, his seductive new hip-hop drama, it seems like there is nothing Lee can’t do. He is taking us all on an uninhibited, bodacious ride, bringing in new viewers each week at a pace that is unheard of in today’s television landscape.

His eyes and ears are attuned to nuance. He knows how to rattle the nerves of the zeitgeist. He is an undeniable, singular voice, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.

Winfrey is an actor and talk-show host and the head of the Oprah Winfrey Network

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