More drama, more music promised as hip hop drama 'Empire' returns

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2015 5:35 PM

By Katherine Davis-Young

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Family conflicts, tempestuous romances and power struggles made hip hop show "Empire" the highest-rated new hit for Fox this year, and viewers can expect a lot more salacious drama in season two.

"If season one was built on the premise of 'who will inherit the throne?', season two is 'warring kingdoms,'" executive producer and writer Ilene Chaiken teased for reporters on Friday.

"Empire" returns to Twenty-First Century Fox's broadcast network on Wednesday after drawing an average of 17.3 million viewers per episode in season one earlier this year. The debut season followed the Lyon family as they attempted to cement their power in the world of hip hop.

"Empire" centers on drug runner-turned music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), who pits his three sons against each other with the promise that one will inherit his record company, Empire Entertainment.

But it's the show's intensely ambitious, prison-hardened, aggressive matriarch Cookie Lyon who has stood out, with actress Taraji P. Henson earning one of the show's three Emmy nominations in the best drama actress category for this weekend.

"In a matter of moments, (Henson) can go from the most raucous and flamboyant to the most heartwarming and touching," Chaiken said. "This character hasn't been on television before."

The show failed to pick up a best drama series Emmys nod but was nominated twice in the costume category.

The second season of "Empire" picks up three months after season one left off. Lyon is in prison on a murder charge, while his son Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is running his company.

Chaiken said the changing power dynamics in the family will bring out new sides of the characters as relationships evolve.

"They're people that love and hate one another all at once. You'll see as many moments where they have each other's backs as they are stabbing each other in the back," Chaiken said.

The show's music has also garnered the spotlight and the "Empire" soundtrack, featuring cast members Smollett and Howard alongside artists such as Timbaland, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J Blige, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

For the second season's soundtrack, Chaiken said more new songwriters are involved behind-the-scenes creating music.

The show's trend of featuring celebrity cameos will continue with a lineup that includes Oscar-winning Marisa Tomei, comedian Chris Rock and Grammy-winning R&B artist Alicia Keys.

(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by David Gregorio)