Some news gems dropped in this Hollywood Reporter profile of Lee Daniels and his mega-hot Fox series, “Empire,” that fans of the primetime soap opera will probably appreciate knowing.
– First, the show is a draw for countless entertainers who want to guest-star in it, as others have this season: “The producers likely will discuss the deluge of requests they’ve received from potential guest stars.” Daniels has even been courting Oprah Winfrey heavily to make an appearance on the series, although she has yet to commit: “‘I tell him: “Lee, it’s not enough that you’ve taken every viewer possible on Wednesday night. Now you want me to leave my own network?”‘ says Winfrey, to which Daniels howls with laughter, ‘I’m wearing her down!'”
– And directors, too want some of the action, like none other than Spike Lee: “Daniels has been most struck by Spike Lee, who he says has reached out about helming an episode. ‘That’s when I realized what a beast Danny and I have created,’ says Daniels.”
– Expect a longer season when season 2 returns next year: “Empire will return with more than the first season’s 12 episodes, though how many more is a topic of much debate.” Apparently co-creator Danny Strong and Daniels disagree on how many episodes. Daniels wants to keep it at 12, while Strong wants more than 12; although likely not the typical 22-episode season TV series tend to follow.
– In terms of what to expect from the writing staff next season, Daniels and company would like to take audiences back to the Lyon family’s more modest beginnings: “He’d like to incorporate more of the poorer-class African-American experience into the storyline. ‘I think we’ve seen the opulence,’ he says, ‘but now we have to go back to where they come from.’
– And to assist with bringing that experience to life, the show’s writing staff is being beefed up with more, shall we say, *color* with talent: “Although the creative team is set to take a break before season two planning begins in earnest, Strong and showrunner Ilene Chaiken have been busy bulking up the writing staff. ‘I wanted to bring in some playwrights because we have these delicious soap turns but we also have very layered character development,’ says Strong, who has been courting emerging African-American talent.”
– And while season 2 isn’t really expected until early 2016, again as a mid-season replacement as it was this season, Fox hasn’t ruled out bringing it back earlier than that, if only for fear of losing impatient audiences, in a very competitive content environment, as other networks beef up their upcoming lineups as well to seemingly attract more black audiences (see my 2015/2016 pilots post): “Also being discussed internally is season two timing, with Madden noting he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ to see the series come back before midseason.”
– Finally, in reference to the self-fulfilling prophecy that black content doesn’t sell overseas, Fox says that, initially there wasn’t a lot of interest from foreign broadcasters. But once the show’s ratings begun to ramp up from week to week, that initially disinterest very quickly became much interest.
I do wonder if the show’s creators can carry its current momentum into and through a second season. When it does return, will fans be as hungry as they are now, especially with a lot more competition likely on the way (assuming even if only 10% of the 70-something pilots/series I compiled yesterday, do make it to series). I think Fox is probably right to consider bringing the show back earlier than mid-season. But that would mean even less time to put a solid season together.
Read the full piece here.