|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||102 (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||Chicago, Illinois|
New York City
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Original release||January 7, 2015 –|
April 21, 2020
Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong for Fox that ran from January 7, 2015 to April 21, 2020. It is a joint production by Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television and syndicated by 20th Television. Although it is filmed in Chicago, the show is set in New York. The series centers on the fictional hip hop music and entertainment company Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders' family as they fight for control of it. It stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett and Trai Byers as members of the Lyon Family, along with a supporting cast including Grace Byers, Kaitlin Doubleday, Gabourey Sidibe, Ta'Rhonda Jones, Serayah, Malik Yoba and Vivica A. Fox.
The series premiered on January 7, 2015 to nearly 10 million viewers while the first-season finale was watched by 17 million viewers. Its first season received positive reviews from critics, who praised its acting, particularly Henson's, its direction, soundtrack, writing, costumes, editing and the overall tone of the show, with many critics describing it as a "fresh take on a musical." Subsequent seasons also received positive reviews, with its second season being the most well-received.
During its run, it was one of the most-watched television shows on Fox. On April 30, 2019, Fox renewed the show for the sixth season and final season, and the first without Smollett, who was confirmed to not be returning after he was charged with filing a false police report in an incident where he allegedly was assaulted by two men he claimed were Trump supporters. The season premiered on September 24, 2019 and the series concluded on April 21, 2020.
A spin-off of the series, centered around Taraji P. Henson's character, Cookie Lyon, was set to launch in 2020. However, Fox passed on the pilot, and it is being shopped to other networks. It has since been axed altogether.
Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is a hip hop mogul, former drug dealer, and CEO of Empire Entertainment. Informed of his own imminent early death from ALS, Lucious is forced to choose, from amongst his progeny, a successor who will control his dynasty after his demise. He begins working to groom one of his three sons to take over the family business – Empire CFO Andre (Trai Byers), R&B singer-songwriter Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray). In the process, Lucious pits them against each other. Lucious' ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison after serving a 17-year sentence, and also pulls for control of both the company and of her sons.
Main article: List of Empire characters
Main article: List of Empire episodes
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||12||January 7, 2015||March 18, 2015||5||17.33|
|2||18||September 23, 2015||May 18, 2016||5||15.94|
|3||18||September 21, 2016||May 24, 2017||23||10.37|
|4||18||September 27, 2017||May 23, 2018||52||7.45|
|5||18||September 26, 2018||May 8, 2019||68||6.38|
|6||18||September 24, 2019||April 21, 2020||80||4.04|
Howard, Henson and Sidibe filmed the pilot episode in Chicago (Cinespace Chicago Film Studios) in March 2014. On May 6, 2014, Fox picked up Empire as a series order for its 2014–15 television schedule. On May 12, 2014, Fox announced that Empire would air as a midseason replacement, rather than as a part of the fall schedule. On November 19, 2014, it was confirmed that the pilot episode would premiere on January 7, 2015, following the season 14 premiere of American Idol.
The executive producers are Brian Grazer, Danny Strong and Francie Calfo. The show is written by Strong while Lee Daniels, who has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, made his television directorial debut with the show. 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 a strong influence from the ABC prime-time soap opera Dynasty. Ilene Chaiken later joined the series as showrunner. On January 17, 2015, the series was renewed for an 18-episode second season, which premiered on September 23, 2015.
The fourth season, consisting of eighteen episodes premiered on September 27, 2017, and crossed over with another Fox series co-created by Daniels, Star.
On May 2, 2018, Fox renewed the series for a fifth season with Brett Mahoney taking over as showrunner from Ilene Chaiken. The season premiered on September 26, 2018.
On April 15, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that a judge was allowing 300 jailed youth to sue Fox for using their prison facility to film Empire.
In March 2020, production of the final season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Howard was cast in the lead on February 19, 2014. Henson was named as the female lead on February 26, and Jussie Smollett was announced in a starring role. Howard and Henson previously starred together as love interests in the film Hustle & Flow, and starred in the 2005 film Four Brothers. 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. Courtney Love was added to the cast on October 23, 2014. Naomi Campbell was announced in a recurring role on September 29, 2014.
On June 2, 2015, it was announced Adam Rodriguez would join the cast in a recurring role in the second season of Empire, portraying Laz Delgado, a potential love interest for Cookie.
In 2016, Phylicia Rashad was cast as a recurring guest star in the role of Diana DuBois in the third season of Empire.
In February 2017, Rumer Willis joined the third season of Empire in a recurring role.
On January 22, 2019, Jussie Smollett filed a police report about a threatening letter sent to Fox Studios, where Empire is filmed. According to Smollett, the letter contained "threatening language" and a powdery substance believed to be crushed-up Tylenol. On January 29, 2019, Smollett reported that he was attacked by two men who shouted "homophobic and racial slurs" at him and then threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him. Smollett told police that they wrapped a rope around his neck and yelled "MAGA country", which references President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) slogan. Smollett was then hospitalized.
On February 13, Chicago police arrested two "persons of interest". However, on February 14, 2019, it was revealed that police were investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack because Smollett believed he was being written off Empire. Interrogations revealed that both men, the Osundairo brothers, were allegedly paid off by Smollett to stage the attack. On February 20, 2019, Smollett was indicted for filing a false police report. He faces a maximum of three years in prison.
Subsequently, Smollett was removed from the last two episodes of the fifth season. In a written statement, the show's producers said that "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays... We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."
On March 26, it was announced that the charges against Smollett had been dropped, although he remains under federal investigation regarding a hate letter that is believed to have been written by Smollett himself. The fate of Smollett's character 'Jamal' currently remains unclear.
On April 30, 2019, it was announced that, although Fox Entertainment had extended Smollett's contract for season six of Empire, there were no plans for the character to appear during the season.
On June 4, 2019, series co-creator Lee Daniels officially announced that Smollett would not be returning for the sixth and final season.
On December 9, 2021, Smollett was convicted on five of six counts brought against him by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb in the hoax case and is awaiting sentencing, where he faces up to three years in county jail for his fabricated police reports.
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 and R&B’s biggest artists including Missy Elliott, Madonna, Brandy, Destiny's Child, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado, Ginuwine, and Aaliyah.
As executive music Producer, Timbaland, co-songwriter/producer Jim Beanz, and a team of other musical collaborators took their cues from the writing team, which gave 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 come with the organic development of the characters as artists, much like the performances featured in the ABC prime-time country musical drama Nashville.
Any licensed songs and composer Fil Eisler's score are added after the episodes are filmed. The pilot itself consists of 12 songs. Columbia Records releases 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. Timbaland left Empire after season 2, and were replaced for season 3 by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and Esther Dean.
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.
Main article: Empire discography
Columbia Records released the official soundtrack of Empire's first season on March 10, 2015. 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. Additional releases have followed for subsequent seasons.
For season 6, four songs from the premiere episode were released in advance of the season, and two new songs will be released each week ahead of each new episode.
|Season 1||March 10, 2015||Columbia||
|Season 1||September 11, 2015||Digital download||The Complete Season 1|||
|Season 2 (Vol. 1)||November 20, 2015||
|Season 2 (Vol. 2)||April 29, 2016|||
|Season 2||July 8, 2016||Digital download||The Complete Season 2|||
|Season 3||April 28, 2017||
Empire was set to premiere in Australia on February 19, 2015 on Network Ten; however, a week out from this date it was dumped from the schedule and pushed back. It ultimately premiered on March 1, 2015, to a disappointing 377,000 total viewers, although it fared better with viewers in younger demographics. The second season was broadcast on Eleven from September 29, 2015.
In Canada, the series was simulcast on Omni Television (Omni 2). The fourth episode and the season finale would also air on City, a sibling broadcast network. Sibling cable network FX Canada would also air a marathon of the show on March 14 and 15, 2015. The show moved to City starting in the 2015–16 season, 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.
Empire started broadcasting in the United Kingdom on E4 with the first episode airing on April 28, 2015. 5Star have since taken over the rights as of Season 4.
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. In Finland, the show premiered on Sub on December 2, 2015. In South Africa, the show premiered on e.tv on February 3, 2016. In Serbia, the series premiered on Fox, on January 23, 2016. In the United States, TV One has the exclusive cable rerun rights.
In 2016, a study by The New York Times of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Empire "is most popular in the Black Belt and in parts of the country with a high percentage of Native Americans".
See also: List of Empire episodes § Ratings
|Season||Timeslot (ET)||Episodes||First aired||Last aired||TV season||Viewership
|1||Wednesday 9:00 pm||12||January 7, 2015||9.90||March 18, 2015||17.62||2014–15||5||17.33||7.1|
|2||18||September 23, 2015||16.18||May 18, 2016||10.88||2015–16||5||15.73||6.4|
|3||18||September 21, 2016||10.87||May 24, 2017||6.94||2016–17||23||10.37||3.9|
|4||Wednesday 8:00 pm||18||September 27, 2017||7.05||May 23, 2018||5.30||2017–18||52||7.45||2.6|
|5||18||September 26, 2018||6.09||May 8, 2019||4.09||2018–19||68||6.38||2.0|
|6||Tuesday 9:00 pm||18||September 24, 2019||3.31||April 21, 2020||2.94||2019–20||80||4.04||1.2|
|1||84% (49 reviews)||69 (39 reviews)|
|2||87% (35 reviews)||77 (22 reviews)|
|3||87% (32 reviews)||—|
|4||83% (6 reviews)||—|
|5||83% (6 reviews)||—|
Empire has received positive reviews from critics. The praise has gone towards the cast, particularly Howard and Henson. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 84%, based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 7.24/10. 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." On Metacritic the show has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". For the second season, the score rose a few points higher, further 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 87% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 7.54/10 from critics and a score of 77 from Metacritic, indicating "generally positive reviews".
David Wiegand wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Almost nothing about Empire, created by Lee Daniels (The Butler), feels original, but after a few minutes, you will stop caring". 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. 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.
The show's premiere ranked as Fox's highest-rated debut in three years. Empire was the first primetime broadcast series in at least 23 years to have its viewership increase week to week for its first five episodes. The show continued to increase its viewership with further episodes. Episodes of the show have also been heavily watched on Video on Demand and other streaming services. Empire surpassed The Big Bang Theory as the highest rated scripted program in the 2014–2015 television season. The first-season finale was 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.
|2015||American Film Institute||Top 10 TV Shows||Empire||Won|
|BET Award||Best Actor||Terrence Howard||Won|||
|Best Actress||Taraji P. Henson||Won|
|Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Drama Series||Empire||Nominated|||
|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|||
|Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie||Eileen McCahill and Paolo Nieddu
|Rita McGhee and Sukari McGill
("The Lyon's Roar")
|Teen Choice Award||Choice TV Show: Drama||Empire||Won|||
|Choice TV Actor: Drama||Terrence Howard||Nominated|
|Choice TV Actress: Drama||Taraji P. Henson||Nominated|
|Choice TV: Breakout Show||Empire||Won|
|Choice TV: Breakout Star||Bryshere Y. Gray||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|||
|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|||
|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|
|Outstanding Song – Contemporary||"Conqueror" Empire Cast||Nominated|
|Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration||Won|
|Critics Choice Television Award||Best Drama Series||Empire||Nominated|||
|Best Actress in a Drama Series||Taraji P. Henson||Nominated|
|Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series||Marisa Tomei||Nominated|
|Most Bingeworthy Show||Empire||Nominated|
|Costume Designers Guild||Outstanding Contemporary Television Series||Rita McGhee||Nominated|||
|Teen Choice Award||Choice: TV Show||Empire||Nominated|
|Choice: TV Drama Actor||Terrence Howard||Nominated|
|Choice: TV Drama Actress||Taraji P. Henson||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series, or Movie||("Past Is Prologue")||Nominated|
|Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics||(Episode: "A Rose by Any Other Name") (Song: "Good People")||Nominated|
|2017||Costume Designers Guild||Outstanding Contemporary Television Series||Paolo Nieddu||Nominated|||
|Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild||TV and New Media Series - Best Contemporary Make-Up||Beverly Jo Pryor, Eric Pagdin, Ashunta Sheriff||Nominated|||
|TV and New Media Series - Best Contemporary Hair Styling||Melissa Forney, Teresa Fleming, Nolan Kelly||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards for Television||Outstanding Actress, Drama Series||Taraji P. Henson||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Actor, Drama Series||Terrence Howard||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama Series||Trai Byers||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing, Drama Series||Sanaa Hamri for "A Furnace For You"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing, Drama Series||Diane Ademu-John & Eric Haywood for "Toll & Trouble Pt. 1"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Guest Performer, Drama Series||Phylicia Rashad||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music (Comedy, Drama, TV Movie or Limited Series)||Fil Feisler (composer); Jennifer Ross (music supervisor)||Nominated|
|2018||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Drama TV Show||Empire||Nominated|||
|Choice Drama TV Actor||Jussie Smollett||Nominated|