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Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong which debuted on January 7, 2015 on Fox. Although it is filmed in Chicago,[2][3] the show is set in New York. It centers on a fictional hip hop music and entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders' family as they fight for control of it.

Empire
Empire Intertitle.png
Genre
Created by
Starring
Composer(s)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 48 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
Location(s) Chicago, Illinois
New York City
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cinematography
Editor(s)
  • Joe Leonard
  • Zack Arnold
  • Raúl Dávalos
  • Natalie A. Boschan
  • Matt Barber
Running time 42 minutes
Production company(s)
Release
Original network Fox
Original release January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) – present (present)
External links
Website www.fox.com/empire/

On January 15, 2016, the series was renewed for a third season, which premiered on September 21, 2016.[4] On January 11, 2017, Fox renewed the series for a fourth season, consisting of eighteen episodes.[5]

Contents

PremiseEdit

Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is a hip hop mogul, former drug dealer, and CEO of Empire Entertainment. His life begins to cave in around him when his past sins come back to haunt him - just after he is diagnosed with ALS and a close associate has been murdered. Looking to groom one of his three sons to take over the family business – Empire CFO Andre (Trai Byers), R&B singer-songwriter Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) – Lucious pits them against each other.[6] Lucious' ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison after serving a 17-year sentence, and also pulls for control of both the company and of her sons.[6]

Cast and charactersEdit

A former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and the founder and long-time CEO of Empire Entertainment,[7] his life begins to cave in around him after his past sins come back to haunt him when he is diagnosed with ALS.
Lucious' outspoken ex-wife and mother of his three sons. She serves a 17-year stretch in prison for drug dealing and sees herself as the sacrificial lamb for Empire Entertainment, which she built with Lucious, but then took the fall for him while running the very drugs that financed Lucious' early career. Upon her return from prison, she is determined to bring the Lyon family back together and reclaim her share of Empire Entertainment.[8][9] In the second season, Cookie leaves the Empire group and starts her own record label, Lyon Dynasty. After allowing Empire Entertainment to acquire Lyon Dynasty, she returns to Empire as co-CEO and Head of A&R. Cookie's lovers are Malcolm (Season 1), Laz (Season 2) and Angelo (Season 3).
Lucious' fame-obsessed youngest son and his favorite child, who is a hip hop star on the rise.[10] Initially combative towards his mother Cookie, Hakeem starts to become more friendlier towards her, and has a great relationship with older brother Jamal. He has had romantic relationships with Tiana, Camilla, Anika, Valentina, and Laura.
The middle son of the Lyon family, he is a talented gay singer-songwriter who despises the corporate aspect of the music industry. Jamal is estranged from his father, who considers him the black sheep of the family.[8] Jamal is Cookie's favorite and has a strong relationship with his brother Hakeem. Lucious appoints Jamal as his successor at the end of the first season, and later as interim CEO when Lucious is arrested. Jamal later relinquishes control of Empire back to Lucious. After being accidentally shot by Freda Gatz in Season 2, Jamal begins to present symptoms of PTSD and a reliance on painkillers. His addiction ultimately leads to a visit to rehab.
The eldest son of the Lyon family[11] and CFO of Empire Entertainment. He is Wharton educated, power hungry, and suffers from bipolar disorder. He is married to his college sweetheart, Rhonda. He plans to run Empire, but is in a battle for the head chair with his younger brothers. In the second season, Andre initially helps Cookie and Hakeem set up Lyon Dynasty, but returns to Empire. Lucious later promotes Andre to President of Gutter Life Records, a sub-division of Empire Entertainment consisting of mainly urban rappers, such as Freda Gatz. In Season 3 he loses his wife and becomes Nessa's new love interest.
Initially the ambitious head of Empire Entertainment's A&R department,[11] she becomes engaged to Lucious though they will eventually separate. After leaving Empire, Anika begins to sleep with Hakeem and becomes pregnant. Fearful of Rhonda's pregnancy, as Rhonda's unborn child has claim to being the heir of Empire, Anika pushes Rhonda down a set of stairs and leading to the death of Rhonda's unborn child. Cookie and Anika share an extreme dislike for one another, with Cookie referring to Anika by the derisive nickname "Boo Boo Kitty".[12]
Lucious's longtime friend and business partner, and chairman of Empire Entertainment. In the season one finale, Vernon is struck and killed by Rhonda, when he attacks Andre, and both end up hiding the body.[13]
Andre's wife is a "ride-or-die chick" who is extremely fierce and loyal, and sticks by Andre's side as he tries to gain control of Empire. In the first-season finale she finds out that she is pregnant, but Anika pushes her down the stairs in the second season fall finale, and the baby dies in the second-season spring premiere. After her recovery, Rhonda begins to work for Empire's fashion label, "Antony and Cleopatra", initially run by Camilla Marks-Whiteman. After Camilla's suicide, Rhonda is appointed Creative Director of Antony and Cleopatra. In the third-season premiere, she attacks Anika, falls off a building, lands on a car, and dies. She makes numerous appearances to Andre as a ghost during his hallucinations in the third season.
  • Ta'Rhonda Jones as Porsha Taylor (Season 2–present) (recurring in season 1)
Cookie's executive assistant.
  • Gabourey Sidibe as Becky Williams (Season 2–present) (recurring in season 1)
Executive assistant to Lucious at Empire Entertainment. After Jamal's promotion to Vice Chairman, Jamal promotes Becky to A&R at Empire and its sub-label, Gutter Life Records.[11][16]
  • Serayah as Tiana Brown (Season 2–present) (recurring in season 1)
An artist at Empire Entertainment who becomes Hakeem's girlfriend for some time.[17] In season two, she leaves Empire for Lyon Dynasty. She also starts to get jealous of the relationship Hakeem has with Laura. In Season 3, her and Hakeem reconcile.
  • Bre-Z as Freda Gathers/"Freda Gatz" (Season 3–present) (recurring in season 2)
A female rapper, who becomes a surrogate daughter to Lucious after the murder of her father, Frank Gathers. Lucious later sets up Freda to become Hakeem's rival.
  • Morocco Omari as Tariq Cousins (Season 3–present) (recurring in season 2)
An FBI Agent, who is also Lucious' half-brother.[18][19]
  • Xzibit as Leslie 'Shine' Johnson (Season 3–present) (guest in season 2)
A rival of Lucious, described as "100 percent wolf and 100 percent gangsta".

EpisodesEdit

Season Episodes Originally aired Nielsen ratings
First aired Last aired Rank Viewers
(millions)
1 12 January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) March 18, 2015 (2015-03-18) 5 17.33[20]
2 18 September 23, 2015 (2015-09-23) May 18, 2016 (2016-05-18) 5 15.94[21]
3 18 September 21, 2016 (2016-09-21) May 24, 2017 (2017-05-24) 23 10.37[22]

ProductionEdit

Howard, Henson and Sidibe filmed the pilot episode in Chicago in March 2014.[23] On May 6, 2014, Fox picked up Empire as a series order for its 2014–15 television schedule.[24][25][26] On May 12, 2014, Fox announced that Empire would air as a midseason replacement, rather than as a part of the fall schedule.[27][28] On November 19, 2014, it was confirmed that the pilot episode would premiere on January 7, 2015, following the season 14 premiere of American Idol.[29]

The executive producers are Brian Grazer, Danny Strong and Francie Calfo. The show is written by Strong while Lee Daniels, who has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, made his television directorial debut with the show.[11][30] According to Strong, the show is based in part on William Shakespeare's King Lear, and James Goldman's The Lion in Winter; Daniels also acknowledged a strong influence from the ABC prime-time soap opera Dynasty.[30][31] Ilene Chaiken later joined the series as showrunner.[32]

On January 17, 2015, the series was renewed for an 18-episode second season,[33] which premiered on September 23, 2015.[34][35]

CastingEdit

Howard was cast in the lead on February 19, 2014.[7] Henson was named as the female lead on February 26, and Jussie Smollett was announced in a starring role.[8] Howard and Henson previously starred together as love interests in the film Hustle & Flow, and starred in the 2005 film Four Brothers.[8] On March 10, 2014, Sidibe, who had previously worked with Daniels in Precious, was cast in a recurring role as Becky, Lucious' assistant. Trai Byers and Grace Gealey were announced in regular roles, while Bryshere Y. Gray and Malik Yoba were announced in starring roles.[11] Courtney Love was added to the cast on October 23.[36] Naomi Campbell was announced in a recurring role on September 29.[37] On June 2, 2015, it was announced Adam Rodriguez would join the cast in a recurring role in season 2 portraying Laz Delgado, a potential love interest for Cookie.[38]

In February 2017, Rumer Willis joined the series in a recurring role.[39]

MusicEdit

After finding his lead actors, Lee Daniels set out to find a producer to craft the music for the series. Because he felt his own musical tastes and desires would be a little too dated for the show, Daniels consulted with people he thought could give him a little more insight, his children. At the urging of his son and daughter, Daniels contacted super producer Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, known for scoring hits with some of pop's biggest artists including Missy Elliott, Madonna, Brandy, Destiny's Child, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado, Ginuwine and Aaliyah.[40]

As executive music Producer, Timbaland, co-songwriter/producer Jim Beanz, and a team of other musical collaborators took their cues from the writing team, which gave them an idea of where the plot is headed, and craft songs to fit those themes. However, the musical aspect of the series is very reality based, unlike Fox's last musical series, Glee, performances come with the organic development of the characters as artists, much like the performances featured in the ABC prime-time country musical drama Nashville.[31][41]

Any licensed songs and composer Fil Eisler's score are added after the episodes are filmed. The pilot itself consists of 12 songs.[42] Columbia Records releases weekly soundtracks of Empire on the iTunes Store, the same strategy used with Glee.[43] In May 2015, Fox announced that Ne-Yo and J.R. Rotem would write music for the show's second season, joining Timbaland.[34] Timbaland left Empire after season 2, and were replaced for season 3 by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and Esther Dean.[44]

On September 8, 2015, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix arranged a medley of songs from the first season of Empire and posted it on their shared YouTube comedy/music channel, Superfruit. The video was sponsored by the Fox Broadcasting Company.

SoundtracksEdit

Columbia Records released the official soundtrack of Empire’s first season on March 10, 2015.[45] The soundtrack consists of 11 songs and the deluxe version consists of 18 songs, all performed on the show. As of October 2015, the album has sold 439,000 total copies in the United States.[46] Additional releases have followed for subsequent seasons.

Soundtrack Release date Format(s) Label Edition(s) Ref.
Season 1 March 10, 2015 Columbia
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
[45]
Season 1 September 11, 2015 Digital download The Complete Season 1 [47]
Season 2 (Vol. 1) November 20, 2015
  • CD
  • Digital download
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
[48]
Season 2 (Vol. 2) April 29, 2016 [49]
Season 2 July 8, 2016 Digital download The Complete Season 2 [50]
Season 3 April 28, 2017
  • CD
  • Digital download
Standard [51]

BroadcastEdit

Empire was set to premiere in Australia on February 19, 2015 on Network Ten,[52] however a week out from this date it was dumped from the schedule and pushed back. It ultimately premiered on March 1, 2015,[53] to a disappointing 377,000 total viewers, although it fared better with viewers in younger demographics.[54] The second season will be broadcast on Eleven from September 29, 2015.[55]

In Canada, the series was simulcast on Omni Television (Omni 2).[56][57] The fourth episode and the season finale would also air on City, a sibling broadcast network.[58][59] Sibling cable network FX Canada would also air a marathon of the show on March 14 and 15, 2015.[60] The show moved to City starting in the 2015–16 season,[61] but was dropped from their lineup after the first half of the second season due to low ratings; Fox affiliates are widely available on pay television as well as over-the-air in some areas. Shomi, a subscription streaming service co-owned by City's parent company Rogers Communications, began to add new episodes following their U.S. premiere on Fox. A representative of the service stated that Empire was among its ten most popular programs.[62]

Empire is broadcasting in the UK on E4[63] with the first episode airing on April 28, 2015.[64] The series premiered in India on STAR World Premiere HD on April 24, 2015 (only in high-definition). Later, on July 14, 2015, Empire also premiered on FX India (both in standard and high definition) with the Season 1 finale airing on July 29, 2015. Empire premiered on June 24, 2015 in Germany on Pro Sieben, with the Pilot reaching 930,000 viewers.[65] In Finland, the show premiered on Sub on December 2, 2015.[66] In South Africa, the show premiered on e.tv on February 3, 2016. In Serbia series start January 23, 2016 on Fox it aired Thursdays at 10pm.

ReceptionEdit

In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Empire "is most popular in the Black Belt and in parts of the country with a high percentage of Native Americans".[67]

RatingsEdit

Season Timeslot (ET) Episodes First aired Last aired TV season Rank Avg. viewers
(millions)
18–49 rating
(average)
Date Viewers
(millions)
Date Viewers
(millions)
1 Wednesday 9:00 pm (1–10, 12)
Wednesday 8:00 pm (11)
12 January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) 9.90[68] March 18, 2015 (2015-03-18) 17.62[69] 2014–15 5 17.33 7.1[70]
2 Wednesday 9:00 pm 18 September 23, 2015 (2015-09-23) 16.18[71] May 18, 2016 (2016-05-18) 10.88[72] 2015–16 5 15.73 6.4[21]
3 18 September 21, 2016 (2016-09-21) 10.87[73] May 24, 2017 (2017-05-24) 6.94[74] 2016–17 23 10.37 3.9[22]
4 Wednesday 8:00 pm 18 TBA TBD TBA TBD 2017–18 TBD TBD TBD
 
Empire: Viewers per episode (millions)
Season Ep. 1 Ep. 2 Ep. 3 Ep. 4 Ep. 5 Ep. 6 Ep. 7 Ep. 8 Ep. 9 Ep. 10 Ep. 11 Ep. 12 Ep. 13 Ep. 14 Ep. 15 Ep. 16 Ep. 17 Ep. 18
1 9.90 10.32 11.07 11.36 11.47 11.96 13.02 13.90 14.33 14.90 15.82 17.62 N/A
2 16.18 13.74 13.10 12.22 12.28 11.68 11.20 11.34 9.21 11.81 12.46 11.34 10.11 9.56 10.03 9.39 9.81 10.88
3 10.87 9.65 9.25 9.27 8.15 8.39 7.84 7.00 7.58 7.95 6.91 6.35 6.59 6.31 5.60 6.32 6.14 TBD

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season got a rating of 83%, the second season got 88% and the third season got 87%.

Empire has received positive reviews from critics. The praise has gone towards the cast, particularly Howard and Henson.[75] On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 80%, based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[76] The site's critical consensus reads, "Though heavy on melodrama, Empire elevates the nighttime soap with its top-notch cast, musical entertainment, and engrossing plots."[77] On Metacritic the show has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[78] For the second season, it built up more acclaim from critics, praising the performances of Henson and Howard, the character development, plot development, and the show's self-awareness for being a soap opera. On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has a 95% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 7.8/10 from critics and a score of 77 from Metacritic, indicating "generally positive reviews".

Dave Wiegand stated in The Seattle Times that "Almost nothing about Empire, created by Lee Daniels (The Butler), feels original, but after a few minutes, you will stop caring".[79] 50 Cent stated via Twitter that he feels that Empire is being marketed by FOX in a way that resembles the marketing for the 2014 Starz series that he produces called Power.[80] Michael Logan of TV Guide described Empire as a "sudsy retooling of King Lear with hip hop as the backdrop and praised Henson for her portrayal of the character Cookie.[81]

The show's premiere ranked as Fox's highest-rated debut in three years. Viewership has increased continuously; Empire is the first primetime broadcast series in at least 23 years to have its viewership increase week to week for its first five episodes.[82] The show continues to increase its viewership with further episodes.[83] Episodes of the show have also been heavily watched on Video on Demand and other streaming services.[84] As of its first season finale, Empire has now surpassed The Big Bang Theory as the highest rated scripted program in the 2014–2015 television season. The first season finale is also the highest rated debut season finale since May 2005, when Grey's Anatomy ended its first season. Empire's season one finale grew 82 percent from its series premiere, making it the show that has grown the most over the course of its first season since Men in Trees during the 2006–2007 season.[85]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2015 American Film Institute Top 10 TV Shows Empire Won
BET Award Best Actor Terrence Howard Won [86]
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Best Actress Taraji P. Henson Won
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Drama Series Empire Nominated [87][88]
Best Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won
Most Bingeworthy Show Empire Nominated
People's Choice Award Favorite Network TV Drama Empire Nominated
Favorite Dramatic TV Actor Terrence Howard Nominated
Favorite Dramatic TV Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated [89]
Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie Eileen McCahill and Paolo Nieddu
("Pilot")
Nominated
Rita D. McGhee and Sukari McGill
("The Lyon's Roar")
Nominated
Teen Choice Award Choice TV Show: Drama Empire Won [90]
Choice TV Actor: Drama Terrence Howard Nominated
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice TV Actress: Drama Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Choice TV: Breakout Show Empire Won
Choice TV: Breakout Star Bryshere Y. Gray Nominated
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice TV: Scene Stealer Trai Byers Nominated
Choice TV: Villain Terrence Howard Nominated
Choice TV: Chemistry Trai Byers, Bryshere Y. Gray, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard & Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice Music: Song from a Movie or TV Show "You're So Beautiful" – Empire Cast feat. Jussie Smollett & Bryshere Y. Gray Nominated
Television Critics Association Award Program of the Year Empire Won [91][92]
Outstanding Achievement in Drama Empire Nominated
Outstanding New Program Empire Nominated
Individual Achievement in Drama Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Original Score – TV Show / Digital Series Empire Nominated
Song – TV Show/Digital Series "Good Enough" Nominated
Outstanding Music Supervision – Television "Empire" Won
Soundtrack Album "Empire Original Soundtrack From Season 1" Nominated
2016 Grammy Award Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season 1 Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Drama Empire Nominated [93]
Best Actress – Television Series Drama Taraji P. Henson Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Drama Series Empire Won [94]
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Terrence Howard Won
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won
Outstanding Album Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season 1 Nominated
Outstanding Song – Contemporary "Conqueror" Empire Cast Nominated
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration Won
Critics Choice Television Award Best Drama Series Empire Nominated [95][96]
Best Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series Marisa Tomei Nominated
Most Bingeworthy Show Empire Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Outstanding Contemporary Television Series Rita McGhee Nominated [97]
Teen Choice Award Choice: TV Show Empire Nominated
Choice: TV Drama Actor Terrence Howard Nominated
Jussie Smollet Nominated
Choice: TV Drama Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series, or Movie ("Past Is Prologue") Nominated
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (Episode: "A Rose by Any Other Name") (Song: "Good People") Nominated
2017 Costume Designers Guild Outstanding Contemporary Television Series Paolo Nieddu Nominated [98]
Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild TV and New Media Series - Best Contemporary Make-Up Beverly Jo Pryor, Eric Pagdin, Ashunta Sheriff Nominated [99]
TV and New Media Series - Best Contemporary Hair Styling Melissa Forney, Teresa Fleming, Nolan Kelly Nominated

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit