Danny Strong says he has no idea what will happen in Season 2 of the blockbuster Fox series or even how many episodes it is coming back with. “I don’t know what we’re doing yet, it hasn’t been decided but I don’t think 22 is the discussion.” the EP said today of the upcoming Season 2 of Empire. Just over a week after the 12-episode first season started, Fox renewed the 1-hour show for a second season on January 17. When it comes to the content of the next cycle of the series he EPs with Lee Daniels, Brian Grazer and showrunner Ilene Chaiken, Strong truly offered no real hints of what was to come. “We are just starting to talk about Season 2 now,” he said, noting there would be more of the storytelling that has made Empire a success so far. “I have no clue yet of what we’re doing right now.”
While staying stringently spoiler free, Strong’s remarks came today on a media conference call as Empire heads into its 2-hour finale on March 18. “It’s a very explosive finale, not surprising,” is all the EP would say of the seasonal end of the show he and Lee Daniels created. “Many things go down and many things get resolved. Alliances will shift and yet it may or may not be completely resolved by the tine its over,” Strong added. “A lot will be resolved, we’re not going to Laura Palmer the finale,” he joked with a reference to the first season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in 1990. That May 23, 1990 broadcast ended with a cliffhanger with Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Dale Cooper being shot.
One thing the Game Change screenwriter does know is that the show will see a lot more guest stars next year or certainly find it easier to get them. The show was “9 or 10 episodes” in production before its stellar January 7 debut and still an unknown quantity to many. “We were getting passed on all over the place,” the EP said of getting high profile guest stars on the Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson led series “Courtney Love stepped up with a leap of faith, having not seen the show,” Strong said of the Hole frontwoman’s appearance on Empire but otherwise it was hard for a while. That’s all changed now, as Empire has become one of the biggest shows on TV. “Whereas it was just tons of Nos [before] .it turned no only lots of Yes’ but incoming calls of people who wanted to be on the show,” he laughed. Jennifer Hudson, who was on the penultimate episode last night, Snoop Dogg and Patti LaBelle are among those set to be those appearing on the finale. Released this week, the Empire soundtrack is currently the top album on iTunes and expected to be battling with Madonna’s latest for the top spot on the Billboard charts next week.
When it comes to Empire’s ratings and viewership results, Strong puts the emphasis on the audience – both their reaction and demographics. “I think at the end of the day it is good old word of mouth,” he said Thursday of the incredible results the freshman Fox show has achieved since its debut. The Empire co-creator and EP added that he thought a big part of that success has been in “serving an audience that has been grossly unrepresented in TV for several years – that is the African American audience.”
“Our numbers in African American household were huge, and our numbers in White household were fine, a very respectable premiere,” said Strong of Empire’s debut and the analytics. “I thought we could grow in White households. What I didn’t realize is that we would grow in White households but double in African American households.”