Empire (2015 TV series)

Created by
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 37 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Location(s) Chicago, Illinois
New York City
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Joe Leonard
  • Zack Arnold
  • Raúl Dávalos
  • Natalie A. Boschan
  • Matt Barber
Running time 42 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network Fox
Original release January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) – present (present)
External links

Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong which debuted on January 7, 2015 on Fox. Although filmed in Chicago,[2][3] the show is based in New York and it centers on 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.

On January 15, 2016, the series was renewed for a third season, which premiered on September 21, 2016.[4]


Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is a former drug dealer-turned-hip hop mogul and CEO of Empire Entertainment whose life begins to cave in around him after his past sins come back to haunt him following his alleged diagnosis in Season One. Lucious, looking to groom one of his three sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) to take over the family business, pits them against each other.[5] Empire also stars Taraji P. Henson as Lucious' ex-wife Cookie Lyon, who is released from prison after serving a 17-year sentence.[5]

Cast and characters

Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3
Terrence Howard Lucious Lyon Main
Taraji P. Henson Cookie Lyon Main
Bryshere Y. Gray Hakeem Lyon Main
Jussie Smollett Jamal Lyon Main
Trai Byers Andre Lyon Main
Grace Gealey Anika Calhoun Main
Malik Yoba Vernon Turner Main
Kaitlin Doubleday Rhonda Lyon Main Special Guest
Gabourey Sidibe Becky Williams Recurring Main
Ta'Rhonda Jones Porsha Taylor Recurring Main
Serayah Tiana Brown Recurring Main
Bre-Z Freda Gatz Recurring Main
Morocco Omari Tariq Cousins Recurring Main
Xzibit Shyne Johnson Guest Main

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest stars


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedNielsen ratings
First airedLast airedRankViewers
112January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07)March 18, 2015 (2015-03-18)517.33[30]
218September 23, 2015 (2015-09-23)May 18, 2016 (2016-05-18)515.94[31]
3TBASeptember 21, 2016 (2016-09-21)TBATBATBA


Howard, Henson and Sidibe filmed the pilot episode in Chicago in March 2014.[32] On May 6, 2014, Fox picked up Empire as a series order for its 2014–15 television schedule.[33][34][35] On May 12, 2014, Fox announced that Empire would air as a midseason replacement rather than as a part of the fall schedule.[36][37] On November 19, it was confirmed that the pilot episode would premiere on January 7, 2015, following the premiere of season 14 of American Idol.[38]

The executive producers are Brian Grazer, Daniels, Strong and Francie Calfo. The show is written by Strong; Daniels, who has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, made his television directorial debut with the show.[10][39] 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 strong influence from the ABC prime-time soap opera Dynasty.[39][40] Ilene Chaiken later joined the series as showrunner.[41]

On January 17, 2015, the series was renewed for an 18-episode second season,[42] which premiered on September 23, 2015.[43][44]


Howard was cast in the lead on February 19, 2014.[6] Henson was named as the female lead on February 26, and Jussie Smollett was announced in a starring role.[7] Howard and Henson previously starred together as love interests in the film Hustle & Flow, and starred in the 2005 film Four Brothers.[7] 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.[10] Courtney Love was added to the cast on October 23.[23] Naomi Campbell was announced in a recurring role on September 29.[19] On June 2, 2015, it was announced Adam Rodriguez would join the cast in a recurring role in season 2 portraying Laz Delgado, a potential love interest for Cookie.[45]


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.[46]

Timbaland, co-songwriter/producer Jim Beanz, and a team of other musical collaborators take their cues from the writing team, which gives 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 would come with the organic development of the characters as artists, much like the performances featured in the ABC prime-time country musical drama Nashville.[40] Daniels said: "The story drives the music, the music doesn't drive the story". Fox's senior VP of TV Music Geoff Bywayer said to expect the fictional musical world to collide with the real musical world; "We want to make the world of 'Empire' almost feel like a real music-breathing entity." While the show will also use outside writers, Timbaland's team gets the first chance to craft original music for the series. Terrence Howard himself is credited with writing the song "What The DJ Spins", which is said in Episode 2 to have been instrumental in launching his character's career.[47]

Any licensed songs and composer Fil Eisler's score are added after the episodes are filmed. The pilot itself consists of 12 songs.[48] Columbia Records will release 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.[43]

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.


Columbia Records released the official soundtrack of the season on March 10, 2015.[49] The soundtrack consists of 11 songs and the deluxe version consists of 18 songs, all performed on the show. As of October 2015, the album has sold 439,000 total copies in the United States.[50]

Main article: Empire discography
Soundtrack Release date Format(s) Label Edition(s) Ref.
Season 1 March 10, 2015 Columbia
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
Season 1 September 11, 2015 Digital download The Complete Season 1 [51]
Season 2 (Vol. 1) November 20, 2015
  • CD
  • Digital download
  • Standard
  • Deluxe
Season 2 (Vol. 2) April 29, 2016 [53]
Season 2 July 8, 2016 Digital download The Complete Season 2 [54]


Empire was set to premiere in Australia on February 19, 2015 on Network Ten,[55] however a week out from this date it was dumped from the schedule and pushed back. It ultimately premiered on March 1, 2015,[56] to a disappointing 377,000 total viewers, although it fared better with viewers in younger demographics.[57] The second season will be broadcast on Eleven from September 29, 2015.[58]

In Canada, the series was simulcast on Omni Television (Omni 2).[59][60] The fourth episode and the season finale would also air on City, a sibling broadcast network.[61][62] Sibling cable network FX Canada would also air a marathon of the show on March 14 and 15, 2015.[63] The show moved to City starting in the 2015-16 season,[64] 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.[65]

Empire is broadcasting in the UK on E4[66] with the first episode airing on April 28, 2015.[67] 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.[68] In Finland, the show premiered on Sub on December 2, 2015.[69] 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


Season ratings

Season Time slot (ET) Episodes Premiered Ended TV Season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Rank (18-49) 18-49 rating
Date Premiere viewers
(in millions)
Date Finale viewers
(in millions)
Wednesday 9:00 pm (episodes 1–10,12)
Wednesday 8:00 pm (episode 11)
January 7, 2015
March 18, 2015
17.62[71] 2014–15 #5 17.33 #2 7.1[72]
Wednesday 9:00 pm
September 23, 2015
16.18[73] May 18, 2016 10.88[74] 2015–16 #5 15.73 #2 6.4[31]
September 21, 2016
10.87[75] TBD 2016–17

Critical reception

Empire has received positive reviews from critics. The praise has gone towards the cast, particularly Howard and Henson.[76] On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 80%, based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[77] 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."[78] On Metacritic the show has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[79] For the second season, it built up more acclaim from critics, 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 95% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 7.8/10 from critics and a score of 77 from Metacritic, indicating "generally positive reviews".

Dave Wiegand stated in The Seattle Times that "Almost nothing about Empire, created by Lee Daniels (The Butler), feels original, but after a few minutes, you will stop caring".[80] 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.[81] 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.[82]

The show's premiere ranked as Fox's highest-rated debut in three years. Viewership has increased continuously; Empire is the first primetime broadcast series in at least 23 years to have its viewership increase week to week for its first five episodes.[83] The show continues to increase its viewership with further episodes.[84] Episodes of the show have also been heavily watched on Video on Demand and other streaming services.[85] 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.[86]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result ref
2015 American Film Institute Top 10 TV Shows 'Empire' Won
BET Award Best Actor Terrence Howard Won [87]
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Best Actress Taraji P. Henson Won
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Drama Series Empire Nominated [88][89]
Best Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won
Most Bingeworthy Show Empire Nominated
People's Choice Award Favorite Network TV Drama Empire Nominated
Favorite Dramatic TV Actor Terrence Howard Nominated
Favorite Dramatic TV Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated [90]
Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie Eileen McCahill and Paolo Nieddu
Rita D. McGhee and Sukari McGill
("The Lyon's Roar")
Teen Choice Award Choice TV Show: Drama Empire Won [91]
Choice TV Actor: Drama Terrence Howard Nominated
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice TV Actress: Drama Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Choice TV: Breakout Show Empire Won
Choice TV: Breakout Star Bryshere Y. Gray Nominated
Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice TV: Scene Stealer Trai Byers Nominated
Choice TV: Villain Terrence Howard Nominated
Choice TV: Chemistry Trai Byers, Bryshere Y. Gray, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard & Jussie Smollett Nominated
Choice Music: Song from a Movie or TV Show "You're So Beautiful" - Empire Cast feat. Jussie Smollett & Bryshere Y. Gray Nominated
Television Critics Association Award Program of the Year Empire Won [92][93]
Outstanding Achievement in Drama Empire Nominated
Outstanding New Program Empire Nominated
Individual Achievement in Drama Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Original Score - TV Show / Digital Series Empire Nominated
Song - TV Show/Digital Series "Good Enough" Nominated
Outstanding Music Supervision - Television "Empire" Won
Soundtrack Album "Empire Original Soundtrack From Season 1" Nominated
2016 Grammy Award Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season 1 Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Drama Empire Nominated [94]
Best Actress – Television Series Drama Taraji P. Henson Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Drama Series Empire Won
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Terrence Howard Won
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Won
Outstanding Album Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season 1 Nominated [95]
Outstanding Song – Contemporary "Conqueror" Empire Cast Nominated
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration Won
Critics Choice Television Award Best Drama Series Empire Nominated [96][97]
Best Actress in a Drama Series Taraji P. Henson Nominated [97]
Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series Marisa Tomei Nominated [97]
Most Bingeworthy Show Empire Nominated [97]
Costume Designers Guild Outstanding Contemporary Television Series Rita McGhee Nominated [98]
Teen Choice Award Choice: TV Show Empire Nominated
Choice: TV Drama Actor Terrence Howard Nominated
Jussie Smollet Nominated
Choice: TV Drama Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated


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Further reading

External links

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