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EMPIRE Creator Lee Daniels Chats On: Series Meteoric Rise, Daytime Soaps, Homophobia & The Season One Finale!

Photo Credit: FOX

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

FOX hit primetime soap opera Empire continues to be the darling of the television season, and with plenty of good reason! Compelling family drama set against the backdrop of the hip-hop music world, sharp writing, a palette of characters that is any soap fans dream (Cookie Lyon, we mean you!), 80’s style sudsy fare a la Dynasty, and its socially conscious tales and relevance of today.  All of this stems from the creative genius of Oscar-nominated director (Precious) and Empire creator, Lee Daniels.

On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman chatted with Daniels while he was editing the season one finale of Empire for a new feature out on newsstands and online today for Frontiers LA.

In it, Lee discusses just how he is determined to cast a light on homophobia in the African-American community during the run of Empire, and how the character of Jamal (brilliantly played by the multi-talented Jussie Smollett)  is poised, ready, and willing to take the family business with his take-no-prisoners attitude and inner-resolve, as those around him try to keep him down through their narrow-minded thinking.

It came as no surprise during our chat, that Daniels was a big fan of daytime soaps growing up, and in particular revealed there is one celebrity he has never met that would probably make him faint … Susan Lucci!  Here are a few excerpts from the feature below:

Courtesy/FOX

Daniels on how his love of the soap genre impacted his storytelling: Growing up on daytime soaps was an important part of the fabric of who I am as a filmmaker.  I have met many stars, but the celebrity I am most impressed with that I haven’t met, and I would probably faint if I did is Susan Lucci (Ex-Erica All My Children)! Dynasty really came to me hard. It affected me deeply, and the queen in me. I always wanted to do something that was reminiscent of that, but it needed to be something that I could relate to. Empire—this is my world, but it’s got a residue of Dynasty.”

Daniels on how Jamal is not going to be the down and out gay character of the series … far from it!”  “I didn’t want the stereotypical gay man up against something, and being a victim.  No, Jamal is coming in and taking it down! That’s just at the beginning, by the way, of what a gay man can do. He is (The Godfather’s) Michael Corleone, and he is his father’s son.”

Courtesy/FOX

Daniels on the impact the series is having on the relationship between father’s and sons, in particular after the horrifying flashback scene earlier in the season, which had a young Jamal being stuffed in a trashcan by Lucious (Terrence Howard), after he saw the boy wearing his mother’s heels.: “You don’t realize the power that you have through art, and that lives are saved, and the healing that is done with gay men and their fathers.  I’ve received tons of letters and emails from fathers who have embraced their sons.  It’s crazy!”

Daniels on what to expect in the season one finale of Empire: “It’s just sex, scandal, fights, bloodshed and weaves being torn apart. (Laughs) I wanted to take down those girls—you know, all of those ‘Atlanta Housewives’. There’s a part of that cheekiness in our finale, too.  It’s a hot mess!”

What do you think of Lee’s comment on the soaps and Susan Lucci?  His way of telling Jamal’s rise to power,and to persevere against all odds and homophobia?  Intrigued by what he has to say about the upcoming season finale?  Share your comments below!

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vinman
Guest
vinman

Watch out BooBooKitty…..the Cookie Monster is gonna eat yo ho ASS!

clh
Guest
clh

I am really loving this show! Had me from the first episode. I love Taraji (Cookie) and so miss her on Person of Interest, but glad she has turned up on this show. She is such a badass and I love her!

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

showcase black women… and i mean that in the sincerest form

when this season started :

right out of the gate

Viola Davis : “how to get away with murder”
Olivia Spencer: “red band society”
CCH Pounder : “NCIS: New Orleans”

and now… this spitfire tell it like it is : Taraji B. Henson : “Empire”

how can we not cull from… blow me away

this is just the women.. but they catch me first

Jake NJ
Guest
Jake NJ

Love this show!

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

yeah, I love that Jamal is not going to be a victim. Instead, he’s a strong man who happens to be gay, and conquers his dreams and aspirations. Loves it. Love Empire.

Scott (ATWT Fan)
Guest
Scott (ATWT Fan)

This show is easily the best scripted primetime drama Fox has had since 90210, and I’m so glad that they’re finding their footing back in scripted drama. Plus, it’s so beautiful to see a cast predominately of a non-white principal cast. I only hope the momentum stays through the first season finale and when the second season comes around.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I agree with ya, Scott. I don’t follow shows on Fox, but now I do.
Last time, I did was the reboot Melrose Place. So, I’m so glad Empire is doing so well, I believe it will have continued success. Oh, hey… Jennifer Hudson is doing an episode, too! JHud!!!!

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

ditto on the momentum

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

I will have to check it out!

Lew S
Guest
Lew S

Yes, it is that good!

MBmomof3
Guest
MBmomof3

Love this show. It would be great if Susan Lucci did a brief cameo.

I highly recommend this show.

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

LOVE COOKIE!

Andy G.
Guest
Andy G.

Since Lee Daniels has referred to this show as his version of “Dynasty,” just for laughs I like to imagine the role of Cookie being played by Joan Collins.

Breaking News

‘Empire’s’ Diamond White Lands Contract Role on The Bold and the Beautiful

Look for The Bold and the Beautiful to add to their cast with news on Thursday that Diamond White (previously see on Empire as Lala) will take on the role of Zoe’s (Kiara Barnes)sister, Paris Buckingham on the CBS daytime drama.

Paris and Zoe are the daughters of crime-ridden Dr. Reese Buckingham (Wayne Brady) who was sent to the slammer for his baby-switch plot involving baby Beth and his gambling debts.

White will begin taping her new role tomorrow on Friday, and will first are on the November 2nd episode of B&B.  Deadline first reported the news.

Besides her role on Empire, Diamond has had a recurring role on Netflix’s Dear White People, as well as a guest art on ABC’s Fresh off the Boat, and more,

Looks like the Buckingham sisters might have their eyes set on Carter (Lawrence Saint-Victor) , the incoming Zende (Delon de Metz) and who knows who else on the canvas!

So, what do you think about a new Buckingham in the mix on B&B? Comment below.

 

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Breaking News

Taraji P. Henson Developing Cookie Lyon ‘Empire’ Spinoff With New First-Look Deal Via 20th Century Fox

Looks like more ‘Cookie’ is on the way, if this long bantered about Empire spinoff takes place.  But, news today via Deadline makes the whole thing look more promising! Series star, Taraji P. Henson has signed a new first-look deal with 20th Century Fox where she would star and be one of the EP’s of the new show.

The show would be written by Empire EP Danny Strong with Stacy A. Littlejohn and Yolonda Lawrence, and Empire director Sanaa Hamri to take those reins again behind the camera.

Henson said in a statement on the deal: “I believe that normalizing stories around stigmatizing matters will make them more palatable for audiences to embrace.  Art can change perception and I plan to develop projects that can help further the conversation.  I also aim to help cultivate and establish new young talent and their stories because they are our future and deserve a voice and a platform to be heard. I’m so excited to have 20th, led by the talented Carolyn Cassidy, support me in this new endeavor!”

20th Century Fox TV president Carolyn Cassidy shared on Thursday: “We were lucky to have a front row seat to Taraji’s meteoric rise as a fixture on television through Empire.  Through that relationship everyone at the company grew to appreciate her passion for storytelling and her strong creative gut instinct. With Empire finished we look forward to helping her explore stories that need to be told through her talent and advocacy.”

Empire ended its sixth and final season a bit shorter than expected due to COVID-19 shutting down production, but now Henson has a way forward to tell us more of Cookie’s story.  This would just be one of the projects Henson would have under this deal with 20th Century Fox.

So, would you like to see more Cookie Lyon in a spinoff of Empire? Comment below.

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Breaking News

‘Empire’ star Bryshere Gray Arrested On Domestic Violence Charges After Allegedly Assaulting Wife

More legal trouble for the Lyon children of Fox’s former show Empire.   Now comes word that Bryshere Gray, who played Hakeem Lyon, was arrested near Phoenix on Monday after his wife told authorities he had assaulted her for hours and preceded to choke her unconscious at their home in Goodyear, Arizona on Sunday night.

Police arrested Gray early Monday outside his home, and related that the actor initially refused to come out of the house, so a SWAT team was employed and crisis negotiations experts were called on to the scene.

Gray was later taken into custody and booked at the infamous Maricopa Country Jail on charges of domestic violence.

As to the events that precipitated Bryshere’s arrest: initially police responded to a 911 call Sunday night, where the caller said that an adult female allegedly told him that she has been assaulted multiple times by her husband inside their home.  She then names herself as Bryshere Gray’s wife and Gray as the suspect.

Later via a press release, police said the woman had flagged down a bystander at a local gas station and told the driver that she had been assaulted for several hours. Police said she clearly was injured and told them her husband had choked her to the point where she lost consciousness. The woman was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital and later released.

Gray appeared in all six seasons of Empire and landed BET,  NAACP Image and Teen Choice awards during his run.

Check out the mug shot below of Gray’s arrest via a tweet put out by the Goodyear Police Department below.  TMZ first reported the news.

So, what do you think of the domestic violence charges against Gray? Comment below.

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