Everything You Need to Know About ‘Empire’ Before Season Two Arrives
It's officially the season for your favorite primetime television shows to make their return. And you know what that means: drama in the Lyon's den is in full effect because season two of Empire begins Wednesday night (Sept. 23) at 9 p.m.
To celebrate the start of cuffing season by watching the most cuff-worthy show, pop some champagne -- or apple juice for the under 21 set -- and prepare yourself for Cookie's outbursts (and outfits), Lucious' icy glares and shocking one-liners, new music and, of course, more Boo Boo Kitty over the course of 18 episodes -- the first season featured 12. From new cast members to surprise guest appearances, Empire creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong have found a way to keep you even more entertained this time around.
But before loyal viewers can dive into the FOX series, The Boombox is here to help newbies get schooled on all things Empire. If you're new to the show, here's everything you need to know about Empire -- and Lucious, Jamal, Andre, Hakeem, Cookie and Anika -- before season two arrives.
First off, Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, is a music god. He started Empire Entertainment, a world famous and renowned record company that he runs with his family. He and his ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) launched the brand back in the day. However, after an unforeseen drug bust, Cookie served 17 years behind bars for her drug dealer-turned rapper-turned music executive ex-husband, who's now viewed as more like the devil than a god.
After cutting a deal with the feds for an early release, Cookie finds freedom and her family running the streets of New York. While Cookie was behind bars, Lucious turned a $400,000 drug investment into a music conglomerate. Of course, the chick that helped start it all wants her cut. But hubbie Lucious isn't having it. Instead, he's looking to give one of his three sons -- Andre, Jamal and Hakeem -- the chance to take over the Lyon legacy.
Lucious isn't ready to relinquish control of his company, but "satan" is accepting of the fact that he's about to "kick over and die" -- if you let Cookie tell it -- because he's been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. Except that's not really true; Lucious just doesn't know it yet. He doesn't have ALS (and won't die), but does find out he has myasthenia gravis -- weakness and rapid fatigue of muscles under voluntary control -- by the season one finale.
To cope with the initial thought he's going to die from ALS, Lucious shacks up with his girlfriend Anika, who eventually becomes his fiancee then his enemy. Let's not forget much of that has to do with the fact that she slept with Hakeem, the youngest (who's also an artist) of what would have been her three stepsons, just to piss off Lucious. So, after watching one son leave with his "bitch" and another go into a manic episode (Andre), Lucious figures there's only one son left to take the company's reigns: Jamal, the son he likes the least because he's gay.
But all of that will be hard to do since Lucious is behind bars. The two-hour season one finale of Empire featured Lucious finally being arrested for Bunkie's murder. Everyone has a reason to want Lucious dead -- even if he's in the slammer. No one wants to go down for murder, but there are some killers in our presence. We know Lucious shot Cookie's cousin Bunkie in the head in the very first episode and Andre and his wife Rhonda accidentally killed Lucious' right hand man, Vernon, in self-defense. But when it comes to the boss, since they can't kill him, taking away his Empire is the next best thing. With the help of a snitch, the feds and a hostile takeover, they do just that. So what happens now?
The new season of Empire kicks off with a #FreeLucious concert by the looks of the trailer. Cookie's looking fierce onstage as she stands in a cage while Jamal is singing to the world to set his daddy free. Meanwhile, Andre, Hakeem and Anika are plotting to overthrow the king himself. But they seem to forget one thing: without Lucious, Empire means nothing. To give the company (and the show) some extra star power and even more drama, Danny Strong and Lee Daniels are helping Lucious and Cookie build their teams with an all-star lineup.
The list of celebrities confirmed to join this season of Empire is endless, but here's a taste of who's showing up. Chris Rock is joining the cast as a fellow inmate locked up with Lucious. Vivica Fox will play the role of Cookie's older sister, not to be confused with Tasha Smith, who will continue to play Cookie's younger sister, Carol. Delaware-bred MC Bre-Z will join the cast as Gatz, a Brownsville, Brooklyn-born rapper who's "unapologetically butch." Anyone else wonder if her street cred will overpower Tiana's TMZ-worthy persona?
Other stars set to appear on the show include Al Sharpton, who will make a cameo on the season premiere; Kelly Rowland, who will play Lucious' mother in his flashback scenes; Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys as themselves; Marisa Tomei taking on the role of Mimi Whiteman, a lesbian billionaire; and Adam Rodriguez, who will play Cookie's new paramedic love interest. Oprah Winfrey and Common are also confirmed as guests but their respective roles haven't been revealed yet.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, there is a wishlist of guest stars that have continuously come up. Denzel Washington, Mariah Carey, Black Thought and Justin Timberlake have all been mentioned. If Mariah Carey made the cut, who would win a diva face-off between her and Cookie? Our fingers are crossed the singer makes her debut and gives Cookie a run for her money on Empire, but it looks like the only thing Taraji P. Henson is concerned about when it comes to her character is who will play her boyfriend if Adam Rodriguez's character can't handle her spirit. "Come do the show, Ryan [Gosling]. Play my boyfriend," Taraji told E! during the season two preview.
This hip-hopera is as much about the acting as it is the music. To expand the sonic reach of Empire, Timbaland, the show's executive music producer, is now joined by Ne-Yo, Swizz Beatz and J.R. Rotem behind the scenes as they work with the cast to create something of a hip-pop feel for the show's soundtrack. Shawn Holiday, senior VP of A&R for Columbia Records and the FOX team, reveal they're creating music with "more of a pop look."
Fans will get a chance to hear more vocals from Terrence Howard while Jussie Smollett (Jamal) and Bryshere "Yazz" Grey (Hakeem) hit fans with new tracks like "Ain't About the Money." Pitbull is also one of the many talents slated to perform "No Doubt About It" alongside Jamal -- the song was co-written by Ne-Yo. While the official season two soundtrack is set to drop later this year, the tracks are currently available on iTunes.
Now that there's some new music to add to your playlist, a rundown of the big names showing up and Lucious fighting to run Empire with Jamal from Club Fed, the only thing left to do is sit back and watch what unfolds this season. In the words of Lucious, it's "game time, bitches."
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