New Run of ‘Empire’ Episodes All About Lucious, Says E.P.

Ratings an after-thought for Chaiken; new life for ‘L-Word’ franchise?
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If you love Lucious Lyon, hate Lucious Lyon, or love to hate Lucious Lyon, you are in luck with the new batch of Empire episodes that launches March 30. Ilene Chaiken, executive producer of the hit Fox series, said Lucious will rule the next eight episodes.

Lucious plays the founder and CEO and Empire Entertainment, and the polarizing patriarch of the Lyon clan. “He goes through such extraordinary things, in such a deep and intense way,” Chaiken said. “And Terrence Howard’s performance in those episodes is just remarkable. I am really, really excited for people to watch and see where we go with this character, and where Terrence takes him.”

Without going into details in advance of the mini-season, Chaiken said Lucious’ back story will get careful examination. “A lot will be revealed, which will have repercussions, huge consequences, for everyone in the family,” she said. “Lucious is the start of Empire, his story, where he comes from, and why he is who he is—it’s what the show is all about in so many ways.”

Chaiken previously created Showtime series The L Word, and its unscripted spinoff, The Real L Word. Asked about the franchise, she said it may continue. “I want to, and have conversations all the time,” said Chaiken. “Nothing official has happened but I’m hoping sometime soon to figure out a way to do this thing I’ve been promising and hinting at for a long time.”

The celeb cameos that make Empire such a spicy mélange will be downplayed in this eight-episode run. Chris Rock, Gladys Knight and Snoop Dogg are among the A-listers who have appeared in recent seasons, but the back half of season two focuses on the family. “It’s not an instance of, so and so wants to be on the show—we have to write something for her,” Chaiken says. “Every single person that appears on the show is on the show [in service of the story].”

Ratings were down from Empire’s stratospheric numbers in season 1, but still robust in season two. Empire closed out its fall run with a 4.4 rating in viewers 18-49 Dec. 2.

Chaiken said she doesn’t concern herself too much with the Nielsens. “We try to focus exclusively on stories we’re telling and the episode we’re shooting and try to do it as well as we possibly can,” she said. “We don’t make decisions based on ratings. Ratings are a thing that belongs to someone else—other people worry about those.”

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