“Empire” Season 2 officially premiered Saturday night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, where Fox screened the first episode for VIP guests, media and some fans.
Before the screening, Fox rolled out the gold carpet for its cast, creators which included Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere “Yazz the Greatest” Gray, co-creators Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and producer Brian Grazer. A live performance from Jamal and Hakeem Lyon (Smollett and Gray) and a moderated panel discussion with cast members and producers book ended the viewing of Season 2’s explosive premiere episode. A penthouse after-party wrapped it all up — and TheWrap was on the scene for the whole
Here are 7 things TheWrap saw and heard over the course of an electric evening that wouldn’t let a little bad weather water it down.
1. “Empire” is still recruiting new acts
The gold bus for “Empire” singer and rapper auditions was parked conspicuously next to the tented red carpet on 57th Street and 7th Avenue, where the famed Carnegie Hall is located.
As TheWrap previously reported, Fox’s “Next ‘Empire’ Artist” contest — which promises a guest spot this season for the winner — concludes tomorrow on that same bus parked on that very corner. Oh, and here’s a tip for prospective auditioning talent: The crew of the bus seems to really like the Fresh & Co. across the street — grab ‘em a sandwich and an iced coffee for a potential leg up.
The #NextEmpireArtist tour kicked off almost two months ago in Los Angeles.
2. “Empire” fans roared for the Lyons!
There was a ton of screaming and shrieking from those fans lucky enough to score a ticket Saturday night, which one might expect given the popularity of the Terrence Howard-Taraji P. Henson drama. The Manhattan audience was interactive during the Episode 201 screening and throughout the evening.
One of the loudest roars came when the cast first entered the venue and one enterprising fan with eagle eyes and a booming voice shouted, “They’re coming!” They came indeed — and then they saw and conquered.
3. Creator Lee Daniels curtsied for Fox Co-Chief Dana Walden
When addressing the crowd, Daniels gave props to Fox Co-Chief Dana Walden and blanked for a slight moment on her network partner Gary Newman’s name.
But Daniels later said Gary’s name no less than five more times. To prove his loyalty and gratitude, Daniels literally curtsied to Walden at one point. Gary, let’s just assume that went out to you, too.
4. Season 2 premiere got raves, but “Previously on..” Cookie vs. Boo Boo Kitty slap got ROARS!
The Carnegie crowd was into the hour-long episode the entire time. Actually, they were into it before the new footage even technically started.
Season 2 opens with a “Previously, on ‘Empire'” montage — and when Cookie (Henson) slapped Anika (Grace Gealey) in the throwback video — the audience went bananas. There was a lot of whooping for the Lyon matriarch overall in the new episode — especially for a few outfits she rocked — though not everyone earned the same respect…
5. Rev. Al Sharpton’s cameo with Cookie=Funny!
As previously reported, the Rev. Al Sharpton guest stars on the Season 2 premiere. While the top show on TV has its veritable pick of any cameo it could possibly desire — and has proven that with a tremendous lineup — Sharpton certainly made an impact on Saturday.
The mere presence of the civil rights leader and sometime MSNBC host on the giant Carnegie Hall projection screen had the audience cracking up, for some reason. The crowd laughed so hard by his appearance that they collectively stepped on what sounded like it could have been a classic Cookie dismissal line. Bye, Reverend.
6. OK, so maybe ONE apology
Anyone who watched the livestream of the Q&A all the way through tonight’s musical performance knows that there was a bit of a hiccup kicking off the concert.
Henson and Howard strolled out to buy a little time and introduce their TV sons, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Gray. On the more seasoned actors’ cue, the band immediately launched into the hit song “No Apologies.” There was just one problem: No Smollet and no Gray. After about 30 seconds the band realized something was up, and cut the track. A few minutes later, Henson and Howard came out to try again, though they didn’t have any microphones this time around. Oops.
But what streamers didn’t see was that the crowd was happy to perform its own version of “No Apologies,” both before the band even plugged in and again after the lapse in communication.
7. Fox still throws the best bashes in town
As always, the reigning fourth-place network threw a terrific party for VIPs immediately following the “Empire” performance. The boozing took place at the 10th floor Weill Music Room, appropriately enough.
Champagne, wine and a champagne cocktail greeted guests at the door, which is good, because it was no small task getting to the open bar on the other side of the room. The venue was picturesque and tastefully decorated under its vaulted ceilings. There were two food stations, passed hors d’oeuvres and way too many people.
“Empire” Season 2 drops Wednesday Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. on Fox.