There haven’t been too many shows that feature a star-studded cast, ruthlessly engaging plotlines, and regular musical sequences in every episode. And all of that made Fox’s Empire truly one-of-a-kind. The record-breaking musical drama series premiered in 2015 and grossed nearly 10 million viewers with its debut. From the jump, everyone wanted to tune in to follow the chaotic lives of the Lyon family.
The show centered on Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, who was a drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and CEO of the record label, Empire Entertainment. After learning that he has a terminal illness, Lucious was forced to name a predecessor for his musical empire. While attempting to choose between his three sons – his CFO Andre, played by Trai Byers, R&B singer-songwriter Jamal, portrayed by Jussie Smollett, and Bryshere Yaz Gray’s character, rapper Hakeem – the family faced just about all of the drama.
After six successful seasons, the show came to a shocking conclusion just before its highly anticipated finale in early April 2020, leaving fans in the lurch as to whether the show would ever return.
In May 2019, TV Guide reported that co-creator Lee Daniels announced Season 6 would be the last for the hit show. The announcement followed a story arc featuring a dramatic separation between Lucious and Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson, that was sure to set up a shocking season dash to the finish. Showrunner Brett Mahoney told the outlet, at the time,
“I think [Lucious and Cookie are] both looking at it like yes, they love each other, but does that mean that they should be together? They may be separate for a bit and if they come back together, it’s gonna be a matter of eyes wide open, versus what happened this time around when they jumped into a relationship without necessarily thinking about what it was actually gonna take to stay together.”
But, as was the case with nearly every production in Spring of 2020, Empire came to a screeching halt after its 18th episode in Season 6, due to the coronavirus outbreak. In April, Co-creator Danny Strong told Entertainment Weekly,
“We’re so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast – led by Taraji [P.Henson] and Terrence [Howard] – and crew accomplished over six seasons. The episode airing on April 21st was never meant to be the series finale, but due to current events it will likely be the last one our fans will see for a while.”
Deadline reported that the scenes from the promo for the 19th episode were weaved into the 18th episode to create a would-be conclusion. But according to the Hollywood Reporter, Lee Daniels said he was crushed by the sudden stop, since the crew didn’t get to shoot the intended ending. But there may still be hope for a consolation prize in the future. Daniels said,
“I think there’s more to do with these characters, and I’m heartbroken we aren’t getting to shoot the finale we wanted – at least not yet. But you know what they say in television? Stay tuned! To the Empire!”
With the show officially canceled, the show’s main actors have already moved on to other projects. In April 2020, Taraji P. Henson launched a social media campaign for free, quote, “virtual therapy” for Black Americans who may be struggling during quarantine. A longtime advocate for mental health, she said on Instagram,
“This campaign is for under-served communities experiencing life-changing events related to, or triggered by, the Covid-19 pandemic. In the African American community, we’ve been taught to tough it out, hide our suffering, but this is something none of us have ever experienced, and no one should suffer in silence.”
Meanwhile, Terrence Howard has wrapped two features – wrestling drama Triumph and heist flick Cut Throat City – and is currently in production on the action comedy SELFIE. It certainly looks like fans will have their fill of upcoming content from these actors – whether that includes a return to Empire, or not.
Watch the video to see This Is Why Empire Ended Early.
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