Lee Daniels’ “Empire” Has Opened Strong

HipHopBY DONOVAN MOORE

Last week, the Lee Daniels directed “Empire” premiered on Fox. The 9 p.m. Hip-Hop drama series averaged a 3.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.9 million viewers, per adjusted Nielsen ratings.

Last fall, the network struggled in the ratings, but “Empire’s” numbers were good enough to make the show tie with ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” as the highest rated new show premiere this
season.

The Chicago-based drama is all about money, power, music and disloyalty.

Terrence Howard plays the main character, Lucious Lyon. He’s a charismatic, savvy music superstar with enough power to cancel a meeting with the president but he doesn’t have any control over his family. He also runs his company, Empire Entertainment. Taraji P. Henson plays Lucious’ wife Cookie, who is also his former business partner. She went to jail for 17 years for dealing drugs. She also started up Lucious’ Empire Entertainment with $400,000 of her drug money. Once she’s out of jail, she wants what’s her (Empire Entertainment).

Malik Yoba plays Lucious’ longtime friend Vernon Turner. He is the chairman of the board of Empire Entertainment. Lucious’ assistant is Becky, played by Gabourey Sidibe. Naomi Campbell has a recurring role in the series. She plays the role of Camilla, an alluring woman involved in a steamy affair with the much-younger Hakeem (Lucious’ younger son), played by Bryshere Gray. Lucious other two sons are Andre (Trai Byers), a Harvard graduate and businessman, who is married to a white woman, Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), and his other son, a closeted gay singer, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who endured homophobic abuse by Lucious since childhood.

“Empire” is a big deal! I believe the show will live up to its potential and get renewed for a second season.

“Empire” premiered with a good start, but with life threatening issues. Lucious is diagnosed with a fatal illness, ALS, and he’s looking for an heir for the record empire that he built from the groundup with Cookie’s drug money. He hopes to leave the kingdom to one of his three sons, whichever of his three sons comes out on top after a long apprenticeship, but none of them seem up to the task. Andre is the most competent about business, but he doesn’t know music. Jamal has a lot of potential as an artist, but he hasn’t been willing to take the next step, largely because he isn’t accepted by his father for being gay and Hakeem is only interested in living the lifestyle of fame. Lucious said to him on the premiere episode, “You’re wasting your life on females and booze, and you ain’t worked a day in your life”.

But Lucious also makes the choice to let his sons know he’s looking for one of them to rise up and prove they can take over for him, setting off a competition of sorts, but the sons, particularly Jamal and Hakeem, have no desire to split up their family or let an music company ruin their relationship.

Finally, the sons’ mother, Cookie, comes into the mix. After a 17-year stint, she is released from prison, draped in a fur coat, saying “I’m coming for what’s mine!”

From the looks of the premiere episode, “Empire” is very entertaining. I think Cookie’s character is what gives “Empire” life. She immediately started causing trouble after being released, demanding a lot from Lucious and even beating Hakeem with a broom after he cursed at her when she tried to reconnect with him. Tune into “Empire” on Fox at 9 p.m. EST on Wednesdays to be all up in the mix.