As previously announced, Fox is bringing its two music industry-themed soaps Empire and Star into a special crossover premiere episode this fall. Star, ramping up for its second season, depicts the music industry with slightly less successful characters and a little more grit than Empire, which is coming up for its fourth season. As creator of both shows, Lee Daniels put it at TCA, “In the eight o’clock with Empire, you see the height of success and the height of greatness, and what we see at nine o’clock [with Star] is the groundedness of what the struggle is.”
As for how the joining of the two shows occurred, Daniels said it wasn’t originally in his plan. “It wasn’t the intent initially,” he said, “because they were two separate shows, but it seemed like the natural origin when Fox suggested it and I thought, ‘Wow,’ because I never saw Star as a part of Empire ever. It’s its own entity and another part of my life that I was trying to explore. But it sort of seemed logical.”
Queen Latifah, who plays matriarch Carlotta Brown in Star, did not agree with Daniels’ initial reticence. “I always saw us crossing over,” she said. “I don’t know what this guy’s talking about. That was in my brain from day one. I love the fact we come from different worlds and yet these shows can both remain autonomous and yet cross over because it does make sense. We both deal in the music industry, and many of our characters have checkered pasts or come from the streets where we could have met one another or come across each other somewhere and had some history, so to me it makes sense.” But one of the great things, Latifah said, was the shows could coexist without consuming each other. “It doesn’t require us to really intertwine these stories if we don’t want to, she said. “It’s their choice to keep them as connected or disconnected as they’d like, but I think they’re all grounded in some realness so it all makes sense.” For Latifah, having the characters from both shows combine will be “Juicy,” she said. “I’m excited to see where it goes it’s juicy for me, to be able to have Carlotta and Cookie and a little Lucious up in there and slide some Jamal over.”
The parallels between Empire’s Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Latifah’s Carlotta Brown on Star are numerous. They are “both strong, powerful women who have been through some things and wear those scars and have overcome a lot. They share some things in their core and are a lot alike.” Latifah also shared a little of how she sees art imitating life. “They are the dirtiest, most conniving people, and they are beautiful people with a rotten core, and you have to guard against these people and that’s how it goes in real life too.”
Star’s Season 2 premiere episode will see the arrival of Cookie, however the opening scene is all Star characters, with a musical number that pays homage to Bob Fosse.
The show also has a new showrunner in EP Karin Gist, who said viewers can look forward to the characters “battling to stay together and using their ‘Wonder Woman’ bracelets to battle a love triangle with this awesome new character played by Luke James.”
Star has previously tackled many contentious issues and will continue to do so, Gist said. “This season we’re going to tell Cotton (Amiyah Scott)’s story [of transitioning], and we’re going to continue to tell stories of how hard it is for people who’ve been incarcerated, very early on in season, and we’re going to continue to throw whatever we can at the audience to get them to think and to throw the mirror up.”
Daniels added, “I’m really excited about Karin who is our new showrunner, who knows this world and it’s exciting to have a fresh voice in the room. It’s a completely different world in our new season.”