‘Empire’ Producer Danny Strong: ‘You Better Buckle Up’ For Rest of Season

Co-creator of hip-hop drama also teases fates of Hakeem, Cookie and Andre.

“Empire” co-creator and executive producer Danny Strong has a simple message for fans of the show regarding the rest of the season.

“You better buckle up,” Strong told TheWrap. Indeed, this season has been a roller coaster ride with every character on the show undergoing serious changes. And with four episodes left before the fall finale, where else can the megahit Fox drama take viewers?

Last week, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Hakeem’s (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray) Lyon Dynasty hit a roadblock when a gang kidnapped the youngest Lyon and extorted Cookie for protection money. This week, they are partnering with the very gang that kidnapped him to provide security at a concert Cookie is planning.

“It’s sort of a shakedown in hip-hop where they offer protection old-school mob style to labels and artists and basically force them to pay for protection,” Strong said.

While the kidnapping shook up Hakeem, he bounced back by the end of the episode with a renewed sense of focus. But Strong cautioned that the baby of the family is not all grown up yet.

“I don’t know if anything can totally put Hakeem on the straight and narrow,” he said. “I think he’s certainly having a big season in terms of his journey and just growing up. He was real impetuous and immature in season one. In this season we see him trying to take on a new role, a new responsibility.”

Last week also saw Andre (Trai Byers) finally come back into the fold, with his father putting him charge of Gutter Life Records. Strong believes that Andre’s journey is one of “be careful what you wish for.”

“All [Andre] wanted to do was get back into Empire,” he said. “He’s had this spiritual awakening, and now he’s back and has to do things that completely contradict his spirituality.”

Lucious (Terrence Howard) will also begin to strategize on the ascension of Empire from record label into global music monolith. He looks into starting a partnership with Jago (guest star Patrick Mulvey), the founder of a music streaming company.

The new episode of “Empire” airs on Fox on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.