Though Terrence Howard's great grandmother Minnie Gentry was a successful New York stage actress, Howard didn't venture onto the screen himself until the age of twenty. Raised in a multiracial Jehovah's Witness household, the young man studied chemical engineering at Pratt Institute before being discovered on the street in New York. This quickly led to appearances on such television shows as Coach, Street Legal, Living Single, and Picket Fences. His breakout role in 1995's Mr. Holland's Opus helped pave the way for Howard's film career, as did his critically acclaimed performance as Cowboy in the Hughes brothers film Dead Presidents.
By the time he took the role of Quentin in 1999's The Best Man, Howard had established a reputation as an actor of both skill and integrity. The new millennium finally brought Howard work that showcased his talent and made him a well-known name, like his role in the Paul Haggis film Crash, as well as his work in the John Singleton's Four Brothers. He also attracted the spotlight on the small screen with parts in the acclaimed TV films Their Eyes Were Watching God with Halle Berry, and Lackawanna Blues with S. Epatha Merkerson. This set the stage for his career-making performance as a pimp desperate to create a new life for himself as a musician in Hustle & Flow, for which he earned an Oscar nomination.
Over the coming years, Howard would remain a vital force on screen, appearing in several films, likeGet Rich or Die Tryin', Idlewild, Iron Man, and On the Road. In 2013, he played a supporting role in Lee Daniel's The Butler and reprised his role in The Best Man Holiday. Howard returned to television in Fox's smash-hit Empire, playing music mogul Lucious Lyon.