|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||73|
|Production location(s)||Chicago, Illinois|
New York City
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Original release||January 7, 2015- present|
Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong which debuted on January 7, 2015 on Fox. Although it is filmed in Chicago, the show is set in New York. It centers on a 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. A hip-hop mogul must choose a successor among his three sons who are battling for control over his multimillion-dollar company, while his wife schemes to reclaim what is hers. The pilot was shown to be a success, garnering praise for Taraji P. Henson's portrayal of Cookie Lyon and the premiere receiving nearly 10 million viewers and the season finale with 17 million viewers.
On January 11, 2017, Fox renewed the series for a fourth season, consisting of eighteen episodes. The season premiered on September 27, 2017, and crossed over with another Fox series co-created by Daniels, Star.
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 a certain medical condition, 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. The second season primarily focuses on the competition between Lyon Dynasty, formed and headed by Cookie and Empire.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Viewers|
|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||TBA||TBA||TBA|
Howard, Henson and Sidibe filmed the pilot episode in Chicago 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. On January 15, 2016, Empire was renewed for a third season, which premiered on September 21, 2016, consisting of eighteen episodes.
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.
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'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.
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.
|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 UK 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 series start January 23, 2016 on Fox it aired Thursdays at 10pm.
In 2016, a New York Times study 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".
|Season||Timeslot (ET)||Episodes||First aired||Last aired||TV season||Rank||Avg. viewers
|1||Wednesday 9:00 pm (1-10, 12)
Wednesday 8:00 pm (11)
|12||January 7, 2015||9.90||March 18, 2015||17.62||2014-15||5||17.33||7.1|
|2||Wednesday 9:00 pm||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||TBA||September 26, 2018||6.09||TBA||TBD||2018-19||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|1||83% (48 reviews)||69 (39 reviews)|
|2||88% (33 reviews)||77 (22 reviews)|
|3||87% (32 reviews)|
|4||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 80%, based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. 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, it built up more acclaim from critics, 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 95% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 7.8/10 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. Viewership has increased continuously; Empire is 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 continues to increase its viewership with further episodes. Episodes of the show have also been heavily watched on Video on Demand and other streaming services. As of its first season finale, Empire has now surpassed The Big Bang Theory as the highest rated scripted program in the 2014-2015 television season. The first season finale is 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 D. 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||Pending|||
|Outstanding Actor, Drama Series||Terrence Howard||Pending|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama Series||Trai Byers||Pending|
|Outstanding Directing, Drama Series||Sanaa Hamri for "A Furnace For You"||Pending|
|Outstanding Writing, Drama Series||Diane Ademu-John & Eric Haywood for "Toll & Trouble Pt. 1"||Pending|
|Outstanding Guest Performer, Drama Series||Phylicia Rashad||Pending|
|Outstanding Music (Comedy, Drama, TV Movie or Limited Series)||Fil Feisler (composer); Jennifer Ross (music supervisor)||Pending|