When Shonda Rhimes praises your show, you know it’s a hit.
A huge series debut, plus a ratings boost in week two, raking in 10.3 million viewers, and an early Season 2 renewal doesn’t hurt either — and that’s been the whirlwind premiere experience for “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken who’s admittedly a huge Shondaland fan.
“So fabulous” is the feeling Chaiken described of Rhimes’ early support of her Fox hip hop drama, starring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. (The “Scandal” creator tweeted “Empire” kudos to her 800,000 plus avid followers.)
So now I am all about Empire. ALL ABOUT #EMPIRE, tweeples.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) January 8, 2015
“Those tweets started coming out, while we were in the writers’ room breaking our last episode, and I can’t tell you how moving and uplifting it was to get that kind of support,” Chaiken tells Variety. “I’m a big, big fan. A huge admirer.”
To say that Chaiken is a huge admirer of her fellow TV showrunners would be an understatement, but she admits supporting competitors in showbiz is a rarity.
“It just doesn’t happen in our business,” Chaiken says. Referring to Rhimes’ tweet, she adds, “What a tone to set. It was just great.”
“How To Get Away With Murder” star Viola Davis also shared on Twitter that she’s “hooked” on “Empire,” and it did not go unnoticed.
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) January 9, 2015
“We’re in a business where the conventional wisdom is that someone else’s success takes away from us,” Chaiken explains. “No, it’s not true, and the more generosity that gets spread in that way, the better we all are.”
Chaiken’s case is only amplified by Rhimes’ social media statement — both “Empire” and Shondaland’s TGIT lineup on ABC are bringing in big numbers.
As for women cheer leading each other on in the industry, Chaiken raves of the group she’s proud to be part of.
“There’s no question that women are underrepresented and underemployed in our business in every way, in every genre, in ever discipline, in film and in television, but the women that are doing it are doing it fabulously,” she says with a smile. “I happen to think that we’re really, really good at it.”