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Lee Daniels Discusses 'Empire's' Grand Social Ambitions

By Genevieve Burgess | Industry | January 18, 2015 |

By Genevieve Burgess | Industry | January 18, 2015 |

There’s a lot going on with Empire; a dying mogul, a wife just out of prison, a company about to go public, three sons scheming to step into their father’s place at the head of their fictional record company, and so many scarves and furs it’s like we’ve all gone back to the last days of disco. Oh, and that conference room that’s actually a basketball court. But the show has also decided to make homophobia a central issue, and this was something that was particularly important to series creator Lee Daniels. At the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Daniels specifically addressed the scenes in which Terrence Howard’s Lucious berated his young son for playing with women’s clothing, even putting him in a garbage can at one point, saying “I’m glad that I can show the African-American community that this is what you’re doing to your son, this is what you’re doing to your nephew, this is what you’re doing to the kid down the street.” I’ve seen mixed reactions to that scene, but Lucious’s intolerance for his gay son is a running theme of the show so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops over the course of the season. I also don’t agree with their assessment of Lucious as likeable despite his bad deeds, I tend to find him kind of slimy no matter what. I think that’s a more accurate description of Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie, who may be accepting and supportive of her gay son Jamal, but who beat the shit out of her younger son Hakeem with a broomstick in the first episode.

The article also touches on something I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else, that the best premiere for a new comedy this year was ABC’s Black-ish, a show I really enjoy but which didn’t seem to get a lot of attention. Between that and Jane the Virgin winning The CW’s first ever Golden Globe, it’s looking to be a good year for TV shows focusing on non-white leads.

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Genevieve Burgess is a Features Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow Genevieve Burgess on Twitter.