‘Empire’ Tackles Black Lives Matter, Police Brutality

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched “Empire” Season 3, episode two, which aired Wednesday, Sept. 28 on Fox.

Empire” has been credited as the new “Dynasty” — an over-the-top primetime soap opera that packs in juicy storylines, glitzy clothes, expensive taste, and loud characters. But tonight, the top-rated Fox hit used its platform to spread the Black Lives Matter movement to its millions of viewers.

The final scene of Wednesday’s episode features the oldest Lyon brother, Andre (Trai Byers), getting attacked by police during a situation in which he was not doing anything apparently wrong. Andre, who is African-American, is walking outside of his old home in New York City, moving boxes, when two white police officers go ballistic and pin him down. And that’s when the episode cuts to black.

The scene clearly draws parallels to news of police brutality, following the most recent headlines made in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Asked by Variety what inspired Andre’s storyline, “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken revealed that the show’s writers have been wanting to include a plot line regarding police abuse since season two, but the time was never organically right for the characters.

“There are a couple of ways in which that moment came about. Thematically, it was a convergence of ideas and themes,” Chaiken said. “We talked about telling a story like that in season two  — a story about what’s going on in the world, a story about profiling, a story about race and police. The ‘Empire‘ writers very much wanted to write about it.”

She continued: “To us, it’s really story, it’s character, it’s a thing that happened to a person. It’s not a social statement. When we find the story, that’s when it becomes real for us. I believe that there will be more that reflects the world and those particular themes that we’re talking about. I think it’s very much a template for us. But it’s not in a ripped-from-the-headlines kind of way.”

The inspiration behind Wednesday night’s scene came from co-creator Lee Daniels.

“Lee really wanted us to write about it, and he told us some personal stories that I won’t repeat because they’re his personal stories, but he was talking about his own life and things that were meaningful to him, and this great conversation took place and we came to this story,” Chaiken said.

When determining which character would be at the center of the racial-profiling narrative, Chaiken said it came down to Andre because the incident fits into his storyline, which in last week’s premiere saw the death of his wife, Rhonda.

“We talked about which son it would be and what really felt like the most powerful way to take on these themes. We came to the idea that it would be Andre because it plays into the story that we knew we wanted to tell with Andre in a really interesting way,” Chaiken said, adding that the Black Lives Matter storyline will continue to progress in next week’s episode.

“You’ll see in episode three that it takes a further turn,” Chaiken revealed. “The incident itself and the experience profoundly affects Andre and the direction of his life, and changes the way that he views his place in the world.”

More TV

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

  • Teyonah Parris

    Teyonah Parris Cast in 'WandaVision' at Disney Plus

    “Mad Men” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Teyonah Parris has been cast in Disney Plus’ “Wanda Vision” series. She will play an adult version of Monica Rambeau, a child character introduced in the film “Captain Marvel.” The announcement was made at Marvel’s Comic-Con presentation. The forthcoming Disney+ series about Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth [...]

  • Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx - NOS4A2

    'NOS4A2' Renewed for Season 2 at AMC

    AMC has renewed “NOS4A2” for a second season. The news was announced during the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con and ahead of the Season 1 finale. Season 2 will consist of 10 episodes and is slated to air in 2020. The series, which is based on the 2013 Joe Hill novel of the same [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content