Empire might have finally earned its first big nomination—a Golden Globes nod for Best Drama Series—but it's business as usual for co-creator Danny Strong. The actor-turned-Oscar-winning writer tells E! News that he's pleased about the news, but nothing's really changing for the show.
"I'm really proud of the show and I was just as proud before today as I was after, but it's neat to get a big nomination like this," he says. "It's not a genre that's awards bait, so to still get nominated doing a really glossy network soap is, of course, pretty cool."
After the holidays, they'll begin production on the 14th episode of season two, which will ultimately consist of 18 episodes. Here's what he had to say about some of the season's biggest twist and what will happen next:
Q: How did the" Jamal kisses a girl" storyline come about?
Strong: It's something we just talked about in the writer's room—the idea of sexuality being fluid and what would happen if Jamal were to hook up with a girl and what would that mean. We get into it even more in the next few episodes when we come back.
What did you think of some of the negative reactions to the kiss?
Look, I thought it I knew it was going to be provocative, which I personally really like—doing something that I know is going to be provocative—but also to do something that's truthful. I've got friends that are gay that have hooked up with women. It's happened. To discuss this and examine it, it's just truthful to human nature. [It's] just not something you're going to see on most TV shows, so let's go for it. To do it with Jamal, I know Jussie [Smollett] loved it and Lee Daniels loved it, and they're both gay and out. For them it felt very true so that was a good barometer. … It was provocative and it was interesting, and it will continue to be an interesting discussion about sexuality. Jamal made really clear that he did not become straight—he's still gay—and he just had this thing with this one woman.
Should we be worried for Jamal now that Lucious is targeting him?
Everyone should be worried about who Lucious has his eye on. That's a dangerous guy! Remember what he did to Bunky? That was his friend! Nothing can get in Lucious' way.
Not even losing his company?
That was a bad day for the guy.
What's the first order of business for the characters when the show returns in, like, eight years?
Four months, that's all! You'll be okay. It's going to be okay! We're gonna get through it together. The first thing they've got to deal with is Mimi and Camilla. They don't control Empire anymore. Lucious is out—there's not even a CEO anymore. This is crazy! What's going to happen? Even I don't know. That's not true, I do know.
When will we see Mariah Carey?
I have no idea! All these names that get floated and talked about, it's often literally just some preliminary conversation that on any normal TV show would not be spoken about publicly because it's not going to happen. So for this show, it's just endless names I read about that there's really no deal in place or even storyline in place. It happens over and over and over again.
The show feels like it's gotten soapier in season two. Would you agree?
It's a very difficult show to write. There's a lot of story, and the story turns a lot. And sometimes we go a little too far and then you rein it back in the next episode. It's very challenging to put the show together. I don't think we're consciously trying to make it soapier at all, I think we're trying to tell provocative, engaging stories but also have our super fun crazy soap twists.
Has it been harder to write 18 episodes?
It's a lot. Even when you plan for it, it's just difficult to execute. Doing 18 is significantly more difficult than 12.
Have you started thinking about season three?
No, not even close. I'm thinking about the therapy I'm going to need when this is over.
Empire returns to Fox on Wednesday, March 30.