EXCLUSIVE: Empire is coming to an explosive end, but co-creator Danny Strong will keep going strong with 20th Century Fox Television. Just more than three years after inking his previous overall deal with the once Murdoch-owned studio, the two-time Emmy winner and executive producer of the hip hop drama now in its sixth and final season has inked a new overall agreement with the now Disney-run unit.
No financial or timeline details are being made public, but I hear the pact is quite significant and will run three years. Under the arrangement, Strong is set to pen, direct, develop, produce and oversee new projects for the rapidly expanding 20th Century Fox TV. No word whether potential Empire spinoffs are part of the package or even under serious consideration right now.
20th Century Fox TV, fronted by Creative Affairs president Carolyn Cassidy and president of Business Operations Howard Kurtzman, now sits comfortably within the multi-pronged House of Mouse small-screen entities headed by Peter Rice and Dana Walden.
“Danny is quite simply a signature creator for this studio, and not just because he created one of our biggest hits in Empire,” Cassidy said of Strong and his new deal, which will outlast the expected end of the Terrence Howard- and Taraji P. Henson-led series next year.
“He is incredibly smart, wildly prolific, and he brings an unmistakable point of view to every project,” adds the exec of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Billions actor, who has won the Peabody Award, a Golden Globe and the Pen Award, and who also stars in Nat Geo’s upcoming The Right Stuff. “He is also one of those rare writer-producers who comes from an acting background so he literally understands the creative process from every possible angle. And he’s a pleasure to work with. Howard and I hope we’re always in business with Danny.”
Clearly the admiration is mutual, as Strong is staying put at the studio with praise for the people running the joint.
“I absolutely love working with Dana Walden, Howard Kurtzman, Carolyn Cassidy and the entire team at 20th,” Strong said Monday. “The love, support and friendship I feel at this company made re-upping my deal a no-brainer and I can’t wait to cook up more shows with this incredible team. I’m so honored to be in business with a company that continues to raise the bar with such excellent and original programming.”
In the past couple of years, Strong has been on a pilot roll with various projects attracting attention on Fox and other aspects of the expanding Disney empire. As well as weathering the rocky Jussie Smollett crisis that plagued Empire most of this year and executive producing Proven Innocent for Fox, the CAA-, Gotham Group- and Jackoway Tyerman-repped Strong also filmed scenes for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Sadly, like characters played by Tim Roth and James Marsden for the film, his mysterious role was left on the cutting-room floor.
Obviously, a not inconsiderable component of Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of key Fox assets that was made official earlier this year, a fairly recently reorganized 20th has finalized overall deals with re-upping Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan, Saladin Patterson, Phoebe Robinson, Randell Park’s Imminent Collision, John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co., Liz Meriwether, Dan Fogelman, Jon M. Chu and Andrew Stearn Productions, among others, in the past few months.
Having debuted September 24, Empire‘s last season is being supersized to 20 episodes including the show’s 100th episode set to air in 2020.