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‘Empire’ Showrunner Ilene Chaiken Responds to TV’s Lesbian Death Trope

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead, if you have not watched the April 6 episode of “Empire.”

TV deaths are always a sore subject for fans, but lately, a slew of characters being killed off have struck an especially emotional chord — because the grim reaper has visited many fan-favorite characters who happen to be lesbians.

“The 100” faced much backlash from passionate viewers of the CW show who were enraged when a key character was killed off, just after she consummated her relationship with her female lover. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” also killed off a lesbian, as did Syfy’s “The Magicians,” “The Expanse,” CBS medical drama “Code Black” and CW’s “Jane the Virgin.”

Tonight, Fox’s “Empire” killed off a lesbian couple, played by Naomi Campbell and Marisa Tomei.

Though the pattern of television deaths has become a recent trend, “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken — who co-created Showtime’s “The L Word” prior to the Fox hit, and has been outspoken about her own identity as a lesbian — says her series’ shocking double death does not fall into the same category.

“I think that we aren’t a part of that phenomenon or conversation,” Chaiken tells Variety, adding that she’s been following the social reaction to other shows “very closely.”

Speaking about Campbell’s character (who had sex with a man, Bryshere Gray’s Hakeem Lyon, in the scene prior to her death), Chaiken explains: “I would say that Camilla is not a lesbian character. Camilla was, if anything, an opportunist, which is quite different from being a lesbian. If anything, the lesbians should wish for a character like Camilla to be killed off since she just preyed on a powerful lesbian in order to fulfill her heterosexual ambitions.”

“Empire” has always been a show inclusive of LGBTQ relationships, primarily with a series-long storyline revolving around one of the main characters Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) publicly embracing his sexuality and becoming a role model for gay fans in the hip-hop community.

So, are there any plans to introduce a loving lesbian couple on “Empire?”

“No plans at the moment, but it’s always in my thoughts,” Chaiken says. “I don’t know whether anybody else shares my wish for that, but I’m always looking for that story.”

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