‘Empire’ Producer Danny Strong: Cookie, Lucious in ‘This Very Dark Place Together’

Series co-creator also talks shocking ending that left one Lyon brutalized

Empire Golden Globe Nominations
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(Spoiler alert: Do not read if you have not watched Wedneday’s midseason finale of “Empire”)

“Empire” executive producer and co-creator Danny Strong says that Cookie and Lucious may be down, but their current predicament might just bring them closer.

“I think as characters they’re both at this very dark place together,” Strong told TheWrap “This company that she sacrificed for and he built has now been usurped from them. I think that’s something that’s going to bond them.”

In the midseason finale, Lucious is shocked when Mimi (Marisa Tomei) convinces the Empire board of directors to vote to remove Lucious as head of the company. Strong said casting an actress with Tomei’s acting chops was essential.

“[Mimi’s] been playing this long con all season long and it worked. She outplayed Lucious Lyon,” he said. “That’s why we needed an actress like Marisa Tomei, someone with real weight and intelligence. Because we had planned this out from the get-go. So we wanted someone with this heft as an actress because we knew she was going to be this big rival.”

But Mimi’s plan could not have succeeded had Hakeem (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray) not turned on his father and joined up with Mimi and his former lover, Camilla (Naomi Campbell).

“I think it was an impetuous thing, but I think he also saw an opportunity to get back at the father who had been stifling him all season,” Strong said.

Of course, the most shocking moment in the episode came when the pregnant Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) is pushed down the stairs of her home by a mystery assailant.

“That was something we mapped out very early,” Strong said. “We planned that when we were writing episode one. We knew that the midpoint was going to end with that. It just felt like a great way to propel the family forward going into the second half [of season two].”

And even though the moment was hard to watch, Strong said that the sequence came together beautifully. “The push down the stairs was so beautifully shot,” he said. “I was there that night and the stuntwoman did it three times. And every time I was terrified.”

“Empire” Season 2 resumes March 30 on Fox.