After the phenomenal success of Fox’s Empire for broadcast television, the question posed by reporters today at the show’s TCA panel was whether there would be the extension of the brand: Would there be an Empire Miami? An Empire New York? Already, it was announced that Empire co-creator Lee Daniels was busy working on an Atlanta-set girl group music drama entitled Star.
Teased Daniels at the end of this afternoon’s session, “Without question, there will be a spinoff of Empire.” For Daniels, there’s a lot of string there in regards to “What makes Cookie’s family and what makes Lucious’ family.”
Many have been dazzled by the name-dropping of upcoming stars, both secured and potential. Daniels announced that Mariah Carey would be guest-starring on the show, but in regards to the character she would play, the co-creator said “I don’t know the particulars.”
Add EP Brian Grazer, “We’re trying to figure out the schedule.”
Well, then, what about Denzel Washington? Right there, Daniels stopped the room’s star gazing and reminded everyone that the show wasn’t about A-list guest stars.
“It’s funny when you start a TV show, you don’t know what you’re doing. You think you can get your friends together. The more celebrities and stars we put on the show, the more it takes away from the fact that it’s a family show. That’s OK for you to be dazzled by Denzel, but family is what this story is about.”
Also broached at today’s session — which included Emmy-nominated lead actress Taraji P. Henson and EP Ilene Chaiken — was the panel’s thoughts on ex-con Sophia Eggleston’s $300M lawsuit against Fox and Daniels; the woman claims that Henson’s Cookie character is based on her life.
The question initially drew a muted response, with Daniels asking, “Who’s that?”
“She’s suing you,” responded the reporter.
“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Daniels before saying “Bye Felicia!” This triggered Henson to let out a huge laugh, saying “I’m sorry! It just hit me!”
Similar to the Shondaland panel two days ago, the press wanted to hear from Daniels and the Empire team how the show has broken through for African Americans, and its legacy value.
Daniels answered that Empire isn’t about, “the black experience. I happen to be gay. It’s about the truthful experience. When people (the industry) is trying to find the next Empire, it’s simply about telling the truth and Fox allowed me to do that. That’s what’s startling people. I’m humble and grateful for Fox allowing me to do that.”