*FOX’s hit drama “Empire” returns tonight (Sept. 23, 9/8c) for a second season that promises to be ” ballsier” than last season, and with plenty of tantalizing backstory about Lucious and Cookie before they met that’s sure to answer many questions, while keeping you guessing and tuning every week for more.
The first season’s climax left music kingpin Lucious Lyon rotting in prison for committing murder, and the season 2 opener finds that Cookie must visit him, “It’s crazy how I can love your a– and hate you at the same moment,” he tells her.
The cast and creative team behind the No. 1 hit drama about music, family and power, recently hosted a hilariously candid LIVE Livestream event that included series creator Lee Daniels dissing BET, calling FOX executives “stupid” and suggesting that white America can’t relate to black women who wear weaves. We suspect all Lee’s comments were in jest… or were they? *KanyeShrug*
Looking like a chiseled, antique doll, the lovely Taraji P. Henson explained to the capacity audience at Carnegie Hall what “Empire” represents.
“We’re trying to push, make you think. You can’t feel safe. The world is not safe. You see what’s going on in the news and if we don’t speak about it, who will? That’s what Empire represents,” she said.
Lee and executive producer Danny Strong revealed how they never could have imagined the show’s level of success one year later.
“I thought it was gonna be one of them BET shows,” Lee said, with a hint of shade in his voice, but Taraji quickly interjected with, “Please syndicate us, BET!”
After an awkward moment of assuring BET exes that there’s nothing but love in the house, Danny talked about the fearlessness that he and Daniels’ had in developing the series, a fearlessness they are grateful FOX executes shared, otherwise Lucious and Cookie Lyon may not be household names today.
“Thank you, Fox, for having the balls to let us speak the truth,” Taraji shouted!
Academy Award-and Emmy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer applauded the cast for becoming “unexpected breakout characters,” and star Terrance Howard joked that his first thought after reading his character in the script was, “this is never gonna work,” he added, “And then, in talking to Lee and talking to Taraji, and talking to my assistant and talking to my wife, you realize that it’s just challenging to play a monster who has some kind of heart.”
Taraji echoed Howard’s initial reaction, believing her character was also too brash for network television.
“These are characters you’re used to seeing in movies, cause it’s safe in movies, and I honestly thought, ‘this will be great, we will put this incredible work in the can and then FOX will choke and they’ll put it on cable,'” Taraji said of her Emmy-award nominated character, adding that she was stunned when the show got picked up.
Gabourey Sidibe elicited thunderous applause when she confessed that Lee is “the first person in the entire world who has looked at me, looked at my skin color, looked at my body and looked at my talent and said YES!”
Lee’s curious assessment that co-star Serayah McNeil (Tiana) is the draw for middle American because she is a “natural” black woman begins around 38 minutes into the clip below.
Check out the full Q&A to hear what the other cast members had to say about their characters, their ‘Empire” journey so-far, and their delight in the artistic freedom that FOX allows them.
Follow the series on Twitter @EmpireFOX and join the discussion using #empire.
“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on FOX.