‘Empire’ Boss on Cookie’s “Heartbreak,” Jamal’s “Burden” and Anika’s “Obsession”

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Game Over, Bitches: Inside the Explosive ‘Empire’ Premiere.

Henson’s nomination because — hello — she’s amazing.) The increasing ratings over the first five episodes of season one last year broke a record that’s at least 23 years old. The set in Chicago, built in a cavernous studio occupying a former steel mill, features new additions like a lighted tunnel leading into the club Leviticus, designed for entrance scenes worthy of a ‘90s rap video. It’s a testament to a series this brazen and this confident in barreling its plot forward at gunshot speed that, by the end of Wednesday’s Season 2 premiere, Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon makes the opposite pronouncement: “Game over, bitches.” How does the most successful TV series in over a decade, a wildly popular hip-hop soap opera with Shakespearean ambitions, possibly live up to the precedent it set: combating homophobia, damning the idea that “black TV” can’t be mainstream TV, and creating a nation of Cookie addicts? “Everyone was always asking about the pressure and I was really trying not to get caught up in it and keep the process the same as it was last year,” says Empire co-creator Danny Strong, who also co-wrote Wednesday’s Season 2 premiere, deliciously titled “The Devils Are Here.” The bombast, the endlessly quotable dialogue, the ferocious performances, the resonant themes, and the simmering epic-ness that came to define the first season of Empire and spark its unprecedented week-by-week build in popularity all somehow shine together again, like blinding pieces of bling clashing beautifully on one of the Lyons’ ostentatious outfits.

The last time we saw that type of steady increase was in 1992. (Video via Fox / “Empire”) A lot of that has to do with the way co-creator Lee Daniels designed the show. She wastes not a moment peeling it off, stripping down to a feathered and crystal-encrusted Gucci dress that says more about her, and the luster-starved state of fashion itself, than words ever could. For the bird of paradise that is Cookie Lyon on Fox network’s drama about a hip-hop/R & B record ruling family, that gown was the only clear choice.

Super-producers jumped in to contribute music (Ne-Yo, Swizz Beatz), celebrities lined up as guest stars (Chris Rock, Pitbull, Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz), and the costumes have gotten fancier (read on for Gabourey Sidibe’s feelings about her new wig). She is, it develops, about to embark on a journey of unfettered opulence rarely seen since the no-holds-barred television era of “Dynasty” in the 1980s. “You’re looking at a woman who was living for 17 years in an orange prison suit,” Ms. On a recent visit to the “Empire” set, we hunkered down near a bar of fake booze in Leviticus to talk with cast members (minus Terrence Howard, unfortunately, who wasn’t present) about what to expect from season 2, premiering Wednesday on Fox. Lucious is still in jail, but pulling the puppet strings at his record label, where he made Jamal (Jussie Smollett) his successor after making peace with his homosexuality. She had all that time on her hands to think every day of her life, ‘When I get out, what am I going to wear?’ ” Paolo Nieddu, a costume designer for the show, described Cookie’s gown as “vulgar in the best sense of the word.” Vulgar, that is, by design. “I don’t need to see another leading lady in a Roland Mouret dress.” Mr.

Cookie basically took the crowd to church, delivering an impassioned sermon-like speech about the topic: “The American correctional system is built on the backs of our brothers, our fathers and our sons. Nieddu, whose previous costume credits include “Ugly Betty” and the movie version of “Sex and the City,” is operating from a sense of mission, he said. It’s the most he’s seen of the majority of them — Cookie hasn’t yet visited him, but that pales in comparison to the years he refused to visit her during her prison bid. But to keep up appearances—and to keep positive attention on Empire Records while Lucious is in jail—Cookie stages a massive #FreeLucious concert in a park, which, aside from serving as a venue for some great musical performances is the stage for Cookie to deliver a rousing monologue about police corruption, black male incarceration, and issues that have become tentpoles of the Black Lives Matter movement that has raged over the past year. “How much longer are they going to treat us like animals? Backstage, when Hakeem reminded his mother that Lucious was in prison for a murder he actually committed (of their cousin, no less), Cookie revealed her master plan: “This is about us taking the empire.

We’d like to imagine that they have a shared Google Doc titled “Hostile Takeover!!!” that is open to anyone who has the link.) With Jamal at the helm of Empire at Lucious’s behest, Dre, Hakeem and Cookie have been working to obtain a controlling interest in the company. Henson and the production team was working from a template laid out by the show’s director, Lee Daniels. “The fashion on ‘Empire’ is bombastic,” Mr. From Jimmy Fallon skits and “Saturday Night Live” appearances to Jussie Smollett performing “Empire” hit songs at award shows, it’s easy to see that the show is here to stay. When Jamal takes issue with the proposed artwork for Hakeem’s still-not-released album, Hakeem says he’s “going to tell mom!” Becky, upgraded to A&R from her role as Lucious’s assistant, has the best response to the animosity, telling Jamal: “You’re rude, he’s crude and the both of y’all are socially unacceptable.

It’s not all victory for Lucious, though, whose rule as prison royalty is threatened by the arrival of Frank Gathers, a juicy performance by guest star Chris Rock. The eldest Lyon brother is paranoid about his role in covering up Vernon’s murder and holds particular contempt for Jamal being the chosen heir to their father’s legacy. Among her more eye-catching numbers are the gilt-edged blue patchwork and leather Moschino suit she wears in Episode 1, and, as the season advances, a red leather biker jacket and trousers slung with gold chains.

But I hope he comes back to center when the dust settles.” “Hakeem is not fond of his brother Jamal, but he and Cookie are getting along—it’s like Team Cookie-Hakeem now. Gathers has a vendetta against Lucious—Cookie is the one who sold him out—and orders his goons to kill him: “Make it fast and make it quiet.” But Lucious is always a step ahead and turns the tables on Gathers. Now that Season 2 is finally here, we got on the phone with Strong to talk through the episode’s big twists, the big themes of the new season, the fallout of the hostile takeover, and so much more. Enter Marisa Tomei as Mimi Whiteman, a wealthy potential investor who isn’t shy about what she likes (Anika) and what she doesn’t (people trying too hard). Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, implied as much in “Women’s Wear Daily” last week.

Among the most avidly anticipated spring runway collections being shown in Europe this week are standard bearers of over-the topness like Fausto Puglisi, with his violently colorful graphics and hardware-studded biker coats; and Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s designer, an even more exuberant champion of curve-clutching, gilt-embellished rocker chic. We made an effort to make the characters as three-dimensional as possible, to give viewers [a version of] their father, their sister, their uncle, themselves, what they’re going through.” “We definitely have more stuff. Mimi buys into Empire, but opts to partner with Lucious instead, adding insult to injury when the takeover team arrives to a board meeting in formation (with Hakeem on a hovercraft because of course). “I thought I told you to sleep with her,” Cookie snaps at Anika. “I did,” Anika says, looking pained. The rules seem pretty lax there: In addition to watching television and joining video conferences, the inmates appear to be free to move about the facility with little oversight.

This is how Lucious comes face-to-face with Frank Gathers (played by Chris Rock), the drug dealer that Lucious and Cookie used to work for back in the day. It’s nice to see “Empire’s” writers revisiting this particular storyline, which seemed to vanish amid all of the late-season melodrama earlier this year.

Now that we’re in on the plan, it’s easier to see the evolution of our style.” Also, I’m a rapper, so I said to the casting director, Claire [Simon], who is really close to Lee Daniels, “Maybe you can talk to him about me doing my music on the show? But Viola Davis gave that amazing speech about how opportunity is needed for equality to happen, and you must feel proud to be part of a show that’s giving those opportunities. Last season, there was that tension on the set with everyone wondering, are people even going to like this soap opera about a black family that’s a musical? Taraji said this on Ellen yesterday morning, when she talked about how, in 2015, it’s time that we are done with the phrase “the first African-American to do…” I think she’s absolutely right.

And then when all of a sudden we started getting nominated for various critics’ awards I thought, “Oh I guess we are an awards season contender.” So I’m bummed to say that I got suckered into thinking we were. The other line that I responded to a lot in the premiere is when Jamal is kicking Cookie out of the office and tells her, “You done now, lady.” It signals this upsetting transformation of Jamal, where he’s becoming Lucious.

He’s ascending the Empire throne and becoming more powerful, but he’s also becoming a gay public figure, which is something he seems to be a little bit hesitant about. There is a fun laugh line at the #FreeLucious concert where Cookie is asked if Bill Clinton is there and she responds, “He needs to be if he wants his wife to get elected.” I love it when real-world politics are introduced the Empire world.

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