As the series soundtrack tops the Billboard 200 albums chart, pushing Madonna’s Rebel Heart to second place, the 2-hour season finale premiers on March 18th, 2015, 8pm on Fox **** Four Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2015/3/18 – We’ve only seen a sneak peak of the first hour of the 2-hour season finale of Empire, the story of a rapper turned record mogul, but what we’ve seen is awesome, the best yet. We were asked to give no spoilers, so we won’t, but we can tell you tonight’s episode has great surprises.
“It’s been amazing,” says Empire star Taraji P. Henson, the outspoken ex-wife Cookie. “When I got the script I knew it was something special. I knew that if it was handled with care, it could change the game. That’s what you’re witnessing. Fox wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. They found a bunch of rebels who weren’t afraid to pass the message on. And, here we are.”
“I don’t like TV,” says Henson. “I’m going to say it, because I’ve always felt trapped in a little box…. Finally, I get to this project, and I say a little something, and they’ll cut and the crew falls out, and usually Danny says, ‘Say it! Say it! Use it all! What else you got?’… My point is it’s a place where you can be as creative as you want to be. It’s a safety net, and that is what art is supposed to be.”
Creator Lee Daniels and co-creator/writer Danny Strong loosely based the story on Shakespeare’s The Lion in Winter. Music is a integral part of the show, and now the songs are a chart topper. Tonight’s two-hour season finale has guest stars. Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Hudson, Juicy J, Patti LaBelle and Rita Ora. Daniels has lived up to his promise of making this the black Dynasty, but it’s for everyone.
Timbaland is the musical director and songwriter. The actors are also singers and have contributed to the songs as well. The casting was a stroke of genius. Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson have known each other for many year. That familiarity shines through in their scenes together.
Music empire mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is the king of hip-hop. He’s a former thug who made it and changed his image. He raised his three boys while his ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson)went to jail. Andre (Trai Byers), his eldest son, is CFO of Empire Entertainment. He’s brilliant in business, Wharton educated, but he’s not as charismatic as his father. Andre is backed by his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) Lucious’s middle child Jamal (Jussie Smollett), has all the issues of a middle child. Jamal is a sensitive soul and as musical as his father. He doesn’t lean into the limelight like his younger brother. Jamal is gay, which offends his father. Lucious’s favorite is his youngest, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray). He’s gifted, but not as much as his older brother Jamal. Hakeem is spoiled and has to be the center of his universe.
Lucious is diagnosed with ALS, that he may only have three years to live. He must groom one of his three sons to take over Empire. His ex-wife Cookie is released from prison. She took the rap for Lucious, was convicted for running drugs that financed Lucious’ early career. She wants her half of the company.
Empire is produced by Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. The series is created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. The pilot is written by Daniels and Strong. The series is executive-produced by Daniels, Strong, Brian Grazer (24, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), Ilene Chaiken (The L Word) and Francie Calfo (Those Who Kill, Gang Related). Daniels directed the pilot.
Twitter: @FOXTV, @EmpireFOX, @TherealTaraji, @Real_Terrence_H, @JustTrai, @JussieSmollett, @YazzTheGreatest, @KaitlinDday, @gracegealey