Eil Fisher (score), Timbaland, Jim Beanz, etc.
No. of seasons
No. of episodes
January 7, 2015
Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong which debuted on Fox on January 7, 2015. The show takes place in New York and centers around a hip hop music and entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders' family as they fight for control of the company. The show stars Terrence Howard, Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray, and Taraji P. Henson.
Fox renewed the series for a sixth season on April 30, 2019 and premiered on September 24, 2019.
The show followed former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul named Lucious Lyon, who learns that he has been diagonsed with ALS and only has three years left to live. He then decided to start grooming his three sons Andre, Jamal, and Hakeem as he will choose who will run his company, Empire Entertainment. But around the time of doing so, his ex-wife and the mother of all three of his sons, Cookie Lyon returned home after serving a 17-year prison sentence for drug dealing.
In Season 3, the drama continues as Lucious keeps trying to pursue his musical legacy with his streaming service while being investigated by his half-brother/federal agent Tariq. Cookie tries to start over by trying to distance herself from Lucious so she can find her true happiness while some flashbacks during each episodes reveals slowly how Lucious and Cookie got together when they were teenagers. Meanwhile, Jamal is still recovering from the events of Season 2 as he still isn't performing or making any new music and is dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, Hakeem is in a beef with Tiana and her new rapper boyfriend "Gram" while also trying to be a father to his and Anika's daughter, and Andre is trying to recover from Rhonda's death but he starts seeing hallucinations of her, while starting a relationship with Nessa.
In Season 4, after Andre's assassination attempt towards Lucious leaves him with amnesia and losing part of his leg. Cookie and the boys try numerous attempts to help Lucious get his memory back but his doctor Claudia keeps getting in the way of doing so. Once Lucious fully gets his memory back, he and Cookie have to fight against his former partner Eddie Barker from trying to steal Empire away from them.
In Season 5, the show takes place 2 years after the events of the fourth season as Lucious and Cookie are broke and are trying to get Empire back from Eddie, it also turns out that Hakeem was the one that was shot by Blake's father as he survived the wound but is suffering with a busted lung, Jamal returns from London, he is starting his own label and has a new relationship. Lastly, Andre is about to finish his 2 year sentence in prison for killing Anika. Lucious and Cookie finally find a way to get Eddie to step down from Empire but after Eddie accidentally dies from bashing his head on a table, the company is left in the hands of his wife Giselle.
- Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon
- Bryshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon
- Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon
- Trai Byers as Andre Lyon
- Grace Byers as Anika Calhoun
- Malik Yoba as Vernon Turner (season 1)
- Kaitlin Doubleday as Rhonda Lyon (season 1-2, guest in season 3, 4)
- Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon
- Gabourey Sidibe as Becky Williams (season 2-present, recurring in season 1)
- Serayah as Tiana Brown (season 2-present, recurring in season 1)
- Morocco Omari as Tariq Cousins (season 3, recurring in season 2)
- Bre-Z as Freda Gatz (season 3, recurring in season 2)
- Xzibit as Shine Johnson (season 3-4, recurring in season 2)
- Nicole Ari Parker as Giselle Barker (season 5-present, recurring in season 4)
- Main article: Episode Guide
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||12||January 7, 2015||March 18, 2015|
|2||18||September 23, 2015||May 18, 2016|
|3||18||September 21, 2016||May 24, 2017|
|4||18||September 27, 2017||May 23, 2018|
|5||18||September 26, 2018||May 8, 2019|
|6||18||September 24, 2019||April 21, 2020|
Howard, Henson and Sidibe filmed the pilot episode in Chicago (Cinespace Chicago Film Studios in March 2014. On May 6, 2014, Fox picked up Empire as a series order for its 2014–15 television schedule. On May 12, 2014, Fox announced that Empire would air as a midseason replacement, rather than as a part of the fall schedule. 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.
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. 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. Ilene Chaiken later joined the series as showrunner. On January 17, 2015, the series was renewed for an 18-episode second season, which premiered on September 23, 2015.
The fourth season, consisting of eighteen episodes premiered on September 27, 2017, and crossed over with another Fox series co-created by Daniels, Star.
On May 2, 2018, Fox renewed the series for a fifth season with Brett Mahoney taking over as showrunner from Ilene Chaiken. The season premiered on September 26, 2018.
On April 15, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that a judge was allowing 300 jailed youth to sue Fox for using their prison facility to film Empire.
In March 2020, production of the final season was shut down due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
Howard was cast in the lead on February 19, 2014. Henson was named as the female lead on February 26, and Jussie Smollett was announced in a starring role. Howard and Henson previously starred together as love interests in the film Hustle & Flow, and starred in the 2005 film Four Brothers. 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. Courtney Love was added to the cast on October 23, 2014. Naomi Campbell was announced in a recurring role on September 29, 2014.
On June 2, 2015, it was announced Adam Rodriguez would join the cast in a recurring role in the second season of Empire, portraying Laz Delgado, a potential love interest for Cookie.
In 2016, Phylicia Rashad was cast as a recurring guest star in the role of Diana DuBois in the third season of Empire.
In February 2017, Rumer Willis joined the third season of Empire in a recurring role.
Jussie Smollett dismissal
On January 22, 2019, Jussie Smollett filed a police report about a threatening letter sent to Fox Studios, where Empire is filmed. According to Smollett, the letter contained "threatening language" and a powdery substance believed to be crushed-up Tylenol. On January 29, 2019, Smollett reported that he was attacked by two men who shouted "homophobic and racial slurs" at him and then threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him. Smollett told police that they wrapped a rope around his neck, yelled "MAGA country", which references President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) slogan. Smollett was then hospitalized.
On February 13, Chicago police arrested two "persons of interest". However, on February 14, 2019, it was revealed that police were investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack because Smollett believed he was being written off Empire. Interrogations revealed that both men, the Osundairo brothers, were allegedly paid off by Smollett to stage the attack. On February 20, 2019, Smollett was indicted for filing a false police report. He faces a maximum of three years in prison.
Subsequently, Smollett was removed from the last two episodes of the fifth season. In a written statement, the show's producers said that "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays... We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."
On March 26, it was announced that the charges against Smollett had been dropped, although he remains under federal investigation regarding a hate letter that is believed to have been written by Smollett himself. The fate of Smollett's character 'Jamal' currently remains unclear.
On April 30, 2019, it was announced that although Fox Entertainment had extended Smollett's contract for season six of Empire, there were no plans for the character to appear during the season.
On June 4, 2019, series co-creator Lee Daniels officially announced that Smollett would not be returning for the sixth and final season.
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.
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.
Any licensed songs and composer Fil Eisler's score are added after the episodes are filmed. The pilot itself consists of 12 songs. Columbia Records releases weekly soundtracks of Empire on the iTunes Store, the same strategy used with Glee. In May 2015, Fox announced that Ne-Yo and J.R. Rotem would write music for the show's second season, joining Timbaland. Timbaland left Empire after season 2, and were replaced for season 3 by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and Esther Dean.
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.
Empire was set to premiere in Australia on February 19, 2015 on Network Ten; however, a week out from this date it was dumped from the schedule and pushed back. It ultimately premiered on March 1, 2015, to a disappointing 377,000 total viewers, although it fared better with viewers in younger demographics. The second season was broadcast on Eleven from September 29, 2015.
In Canada, the series was simulcast on Omni Television (Omni 2). The fourth episode and the season finale would also air on City, a sibling broadcast network. Sibling cable network FX Canada would also air a marathon of the show on March 14 and 15, 2015. The show moved to City starting in the 2015–16 season, 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.
Empire started broadcasting in the UK on E4 with the first episode airing on April 28, 2015. 5Star have since taken over the rights as of Season 4. 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. In Finland, the show premiered on Sub on December 2, 2015. 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.
In the United States, TV One have the exclusive cable rerun rights.
Empire has received positive reviews from critics. The praise has gone towards the cast, particularly Howard and Henson. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 84%, based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 7.24/10. 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." On Metacritic the show has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". For the second season, the score rose a few points higher, further 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 87% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 7.54/10 from critics and a score of 77 from Metacritic, indicating "generally positive reviews".
David Wiegand wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Almost nothing about Empire, created by Lee Daniels (The Butler), feels original, but after a few minutes, you will stop caring". 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. 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.
The show's premiere ranked as Fox's highest-rated debut in three years. Viewership has increased continuously; Empire is the first prime-time broadcast series in at least 23 years to have its viewership increase week to week for its first five episodes. The show continues to increase its viewership with further episodes. Episodes of the show have also been heavily watched on Video on Demand and other streaming services. 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.