Fox Boss Talks Possible ‘Empire’ Offshoots & Cookie Spinoff, Teases Series Finale Without Jussie Smollett

Chuck Hodes/FOX

Almost from the moment Empire made a splashy debut in January 2015 to huge ratings and instant pop culture staple status, there had been talk of expanding the franchise with offshoots.

Early in the show’s run, the focus was on potential prequels, including one about young Cookie Lyon, the character played by Taraji P. Henson on Empire. Over the past few months, there has been increasing chatter about a potential sequel headlined by Henson as the larger-than-life Cookie, which series creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong had reportedly embraced.

“We have talked about it but there has been no pitch, and there has been no deals,” Fox entertainment chief Michael Thorn said Tuesday at TCA. “Would we like to keep Taraji on our air for as long as possible? Of course!”

Thorn stressed that Fox will be proceeding with caution when trying to mount an Empire follow-up series.

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“We have talked and continue to talk with the producers about spinoffs all the time, but when you have a show that’s iconic, if we are going to do it, it’s got to be great and hopefully worthy of being in the same sentence as the original,” he said, noting that there are ongoing conversations but “nothing formal.”

Thorn also teased the upcoming series finale of Empire.

“We are coming down on our final season of Empire, and we have really exciting things planned for the finale,” he said. “We just heard recently the final episode pitches, and our feeling is that we are going to go out as epically as we came in.”

The finale will not feature original series regular Jussie Smollett who exited last season amid controversy over a possible staged hate attack.

“He is not coming back,” Thorn said, noting that Smollett’s character Jamal will likely be acknowledged.

“It’s a shame,” Thorn said of the scandal, which took a toll on the cast and creative team of Empire but added that “the show is bigger than what happened to him.”

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