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‘Empire’ Showrunner Breaks Down Shocking Double Death (SPOILERS)

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the April 6 episode of “Empire,” titled, “A Rose by Any Other Name.”

Another one bites the dust — actually, two.

After endless manipulation put upon the Lyon family, the villainous Camilla (Naomi Campbell) is no longer a threat to the Empire.

On Wednesday night’s episode, Camilla — who is married to Empire’s chairman of the board Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) — killed herself and took her wife along with her.

The shocking double death came after the running story-arc of Camilla taking over Empire Entertainment with new CEO Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), much to Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) dismay.

Hakeem finally came to his senses, realizing that Camilla is harming his family, so in an effort to get his family back on top, he made a sex tape with the cougar and secretly filmed the entire thing and sent it to Mimi, who’s stricken with cancer. Hakeem’s trickery worked and while he was hooking up with Camilla, she uttered nasty things about Mimi — so she saw it all on tape.

Though it wasn’t shown on-screen, Camilla killed Mimi and staged her death as a suicide in the bathtub. Just as she thought her master plan worked and she would be getting everything from Empire, Lucious walked in behind her. Pointing a gun at her face, Lucious told Camilla that she is better off just killing herself because if she doesn’t, she’ll spend the rest of her life in jail anyway. Giving a nod to Romeo and Juliet, just like that, Camilla sipped the same poisonous potion that she spiked Mimi’s drink with and the episode ended.

Here, showrunner Ilene Chaiken talks to Variety about Mimi and Camilla’s shocker, plus the rest of the episode, and teases how Camilla’s death will impact Empire Entertainment.

I have to ask: Camilla is really dead, right?
I would say so!

Is there any chance the murder-suicide story won’t hold? Will anyone find out Lucious was on the scene?
Anything can come back in this world, but for the time being, it’s a revolution to that story.

Was it always the plan to kill off Camilla? And what was Naomi Campbell’s reaction?
It was always the way that we had planned to tell the story. Her reaction was very professional and I think it was understood that she wouldn’t continue to run Empire and also in the mythology of Empire, you can’t come at Lucious Lyon like that and expect to walk the Earth for very much longer.

Will her death have any negative impact on Hakeem or anyone, or is everyone happy she’s gone?
Hakeem will certainly be sad and I would think that given the trouble she’s caused, it might be one of the few things the Lyons can unite over. The family came back together and all worked together on something and Hakeem made big adult choices and pulled it off. I don’t think Hakeem ever expected Lucious to take it one step further.

Now that Mimi and Camilla are gone, is Hakeem going to stay CEO or is Lucious back in charge?
That remains to be seen and that’s something that won’t be easily resolved easily or quickly.

Now that Hakeem is CEO, there’s a new logo in the title treatment. So creative! How did that idea come about?
I remember when it came up at the table. I remember the moment and I remember being gleeful.

Can we expect to see Hakeem in the title treatment again or will Lucious be back up top?
The title treatment will always reflect who’s in charge, which means that it will evolve throughout the rest of the season.

So does that mean there could be someone else besides Hakeem or Lucious in charge of Empire?
That’s what I’m teasing, but not promising.

Even though he did it for the greater good, Hakeem filmed a sex tape — and he has a girlfriend. Will Laura find out and will she be mad?
Laura has so much to be mad about, I think maybe that falls on the list that Laura will find out about that will cause issues for her.

We met a new character this week — the journalist played by Annie Ilonzeh. What trouble is Lucious stirring up with her?
Lucious is all about controlling the story and one of the ways in which you control the story is by having a relationship with a journalist who will tell a story in the way in which you want it told, and he thinks he’s found that person. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a beautiful woman and it’s a little bit of a dangerous situation to him — the kind of danger that he most enjoys playing with.

Does that mean there will be a romance between her and Lucious?
There certainly could be. It’s all in the mix.

Lucious started to tell a serious story to the journalist. Will we see any more flashbacks into his childhood or any more moments with Kelly Rowland, who plays his mother?
There certainly will be more flashbacks in to Lucious’s past. That’s a story that we began early in the season and that carries through right to the end. It’s a story that we always knew played a big role in the season and had an arc that gets resolved.

The past few episodes have foreshadowed Andre and Rhonda having issues, as he’s dealing with his mental illness and struggling with his faith after losing the baby. Should we be worried about their marriage?
Yes, I think we should always be worried about Andre. It’s not a struggle that ends. It’s a lifelong struggle. The two biggest things in his life — his marriage and his faith — are both threatened in the wake of this terrible, sad that’s happened.

You teased that Andre has a big moment coming up. When can we expect that?
I can say that in our next episode that storyline kicks in and when it begins, it is a wild roller coaster. It effects everybody, but I would say at least in the beginning, primarily Andre.

Jamal’s gay fans are turning against him, since Lucious let it be known that he hooked up with Skye (Alicia Keys). How will he win back his following?
Jamal is bound to be true to himself. He’s not going to pander to anyone and he’s hopefully going to let his fans see him in his truth and hopefully embrace him for representing something that we all believe in, but he does have to win them back and he starts by telling some harsh truths.

Why did the writers want Jamal to hook up with a woman, in the first place?
It was an interesting story to tell about Jamal. It was a character story, something that we believed about Jamal and honestly, it came in large part from a couple meetings that we had with Jussie Smollett and Lee and we were all talking about some shared experiences that we all had and we thought that was an interesting story. We get to talk again about sexuality, sexual orientation, identify and personal choice in a way that’s provocative and yet true to character.

Who came up with the idea to turn “Drip Drop” into “Flip Flop?”
That was an idea that came up in the room and it was very much a group effort, but Josh Allen [“Empire” writer] I think gets the share of credit, because I remember him singing “Flip flop, flip flipitty flop.”

Rafael de la Fuente told Variety that there’s a moment coming up between Michael and Jamal. What can you say about that?
You can certainly expect to see Michael back in Jamal’s life — I’m not going to say whether it’s a rekindling of romance. It’s a relationship that will never go away. They’re two people who share so much and understand one another so deeply, so they’ll continue to play a role in one another’s lives.

We saw Tiana get into pop star mode on this episode. Serayah, who plays Tiana, is in Taylor Swift’s squad. Just for fun: any chance Taylor could guest star on “Empire?”
Absolutely. She certainly on our wish list and we would be delighted if she ever let us know that she was interested and we’d try and figure out a way it could happen.

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