How Lee Daniels' Real-Life Experiences Helped Create Empire

Fox's newest series is here! What did you think?

By Lauren Piester Jan 08, 2015 3:05 AMTags
Watch: Lee Daniels' Take on Homosexuality in "Empire"

So, is Cookie Lyon your new favorite TV character or what?

We told you – or rather, Taraji P. Henson told you – that this show was like nothing you've ever seen on TV before. It's been called a hip hop soap opera, and it tells the tale of music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) as he determines which of his three sons will eventually take over his hugely successful record company. Meanwhile, his wife, Cookie (Henson) – and co-founder of the company – has just been released from jail after 17 years. To say things get dramatic is a bit of an understatement.

While this show is certainly unlike anything that has ever aired on Fox or any other major network, it's also different because it's based on some of the real-life experiences of creator and filmmaker Lee Daniels, particularly in terms of homophobia, which is one of the major issues that the show focuses on.

In the show, Lucious' son Jamal, played by Jussie Smollett, is gay, but constantly encouraged by his father to suppress his sexuality in favor of more record sales.

 "Look, I'm openly gay and I remember my dad was like, ‘You're an African-American man, that's hard enough. You're going to throw gay on top of it? What are you doing?  You have a choice. Do you really want to go through like this?' And that still weighs on me," Daniels tells us in the video above. 

Daniels also finally gave us some answers on a much less important but still very glaring issue: Lucious' hair. According to Daniels, the strange pouf is Terrence Howard's fault.

"He was like, ‘Oh well, you know, it's like Prince. He's sort of stuck in Prince-land and he's sort of like James Brown, that sort of thing.'  And just for a quick second, he got me."

Check out the video above for the full interview, in which Daniels also talks a bit about any relationship that the show has to the classic Dynasty. If you got a sort of Joan Collins vibe from Cookie, you aren't too far off the mark.

"That's who she's sort of based on, her and my family," Daniels says, "She's gonna cause a nuclear war."

So what did you think of the new series? Will you tune in again? Vote in our poll and then head to the comments to let us know what you thought!



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