The Lyon family is unlikely to roar again at Fox, as the broadcast network does not have plans to make the “proper” series finale for “Empire” that co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong said they hoped to eventually produce when the pandemic forced the hip-hop drama to wrap a few episodes shy of its intended conclusion.
“Unfortunately, with the pandemic, as you know, we weren’t able to finish the finale in a way that we hoped we could,” Michael Thorn, president of entertainment at Fox Entertainment, told TheWrap Tuesday. “I think the producers did the best they could, given the situation we were in, to give the audience closure. But just given that everyone in the cast and behind the scenes are all doing different things, it just feels extremely unlikely that we’ll be able to, at least for a while, give that kind of finale.”
Late last year, Fox scrapped plans for an “Empire” spinoff focused on star Taraji P. Henson, who played leading lady Cookie Lyon opposite Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon for the family drama’s six-season run. The hit show centered on the on-again-off-again couple and their sons — Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) — as they worked to keep the family music business Empire on top of the industry.
“‘Empire’ will forever define Fox. And it’s one of our signature shows,” Thorn continued. “Cookie and Lucious are among our most signature characters and will be among the faces of Fox throughout our history. But I think for the show, we are celebrating the iconic series by probably not looking to exploit it any further and just celebrate it for what it was, which was one of the great dramas of all time, in our opinion.”
Fox is still in business with “Empire” co-creator Daniels, debuting his new Black family drama “Our Kind of People” this fall. That show, which stars Yaya DaCosta (“Chicago Med,” “Whitney”), Morris Chestnut (“The Resident”), Joe Morton (“Scandal”) and Nadine Ellis (“Let’s Stay Together”), takes place in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, a historical stronghold where the rich and powerful Black elite have come to play for more than 50 years.
However, Thorn is quick to point out that the fact the show centers on wealthy and powerful Black families and that Daniels is producing the project does not mean Fox is looking for “Our Kind of People” to be its new “Empire.”
“On ‘Our Kind of People,’ while it does have Lee Daniels and there are family elements, it is a very different show than ‘Empire.’ I don’t talk about it as an ‘Empire’ replacement, personally,” Thorn said. “We look at it as an incredibly unique character piece that focuses on Black excellence and really unique themes with the kind of stories that really have not been seen before on television… We’re really proud of what Karin [Gist] and Lee and the team are doing with this show. While it is an African-American ensemble, it is entirely its own show with its own attitude, its own tone and sensibility. And is really quite special. In general, Fox was built on having diversity behind the camera and in front of the camera, even before ‘Empire.’ And so we will continue to really celebrate diverse voices.”