×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Empire’ Executive Producer Sanaa Hamri on Female Directors, Diversity & ‘Sensational’ Season 3

Director Sanaa Hamri landed her first executive producer credit on “Empire” — the top drama on network television. An alum of “Shameless,” “Elementary” and “Nashville,” who also helmed the sequel to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Hamri says the ratings and accolades are just gravy. “Of course there’s a lot of pressure,” she says, “but the pressure and loyalty is to the show itself and making it the best that we can.”

Why has “Empire” clicked with audiences?

Music, to me, is an important element because music is really the rhythm of our lives. We can all love a song and it doesn’t matter what walk of life or socioeconomic background we’re from.

“Empire” is broadcast’s top show. Is there pressure to keep the viewers watching?

I’m not focused on that so much as really creating the best show and the best episode that we can. You’re just as good as what you just did. I’m an artist, I’m a filmmaker, but I love doing that work so that’s what I’m fixated on. The other stuff comes with it and I appreciate it, but it’s not an obsession for me.

You’re directing the season three premiere and finale, plus more episodes, and you are an executive producer. How do you do it all?

Not to sound cliché, but women are the greatest multitaskers there are. I’ve always been by nature a multitasker. I love delegating. I’m also very organized. Listen, it’s a lot of hours. I feel like it’s a lot of hard work, but I love it.

 

Speaking of women, almost half of season three will be directed by female directors…

We believe in making sure that everyone is represented, whether it’s the writers room or directors. When you just go for the best people and when you’re not stuck in an old-school mindset, then you have diversity. You have a lot more women who are hired and who are working.

How closely do you work with directors when you’re not directing?

We take a lot of chances on directors who have not directed television before. I want every director on our show to succeed, whether they’re male, female, black, white or purple. I remember feeling like folks were trying to sabotage me and it always came from the wrong place. When we have different directors, I try to create a different environment for them where they feel embraced.

 

What can you tease about Season 3?

Season 3 is obviously going to be about the family dynamic, where Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is going to head, and where the relationship with his mother is going to take him. We also have to deal with Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), who is so devastated by Lucious’ decision. We’re going to follow her new path and see what happens between Lucious and Cookie because the great thing is, they’re co-CEOs of Empire. Let’s not forget, we have the half brother Tariq (Morocco Omari) that Lucious has to deal with and who’s in the FBI. You have Jamal (Jussie Smollett) who is literally broken by being shot and then, of course, we ended on Andre (Trai Byers) witnessing a death so that’s going to deeply affecting him. There’s so much and it’s going to be an exciting season.

Speaking of that cliffhanger, who died?

Anything is possible in the world of “Empire.” It’s going to quite sensational when we get back.

Right after the Season 2 finale, showrunner Ilene Chaiken said the entire cast did not know who died. Do they now?

We all know.

 

What are your personal goals on “Empire,” as the show heads into its third season?

I’m extremely passionate about diversity and women working in entertainment. I really do believe if you’re looking for the best people, no holds barred, you will create a diverse roster. Benefiting from different point of views only makes our world and entertainment richer and more nuanced. That’s really what I’m about.

More TV

  • Daily Show Viacom

    Viacom, DirecTV Make Progress in Contract Talks, No Blackout After Deadline Passes

    UPDATED: Viacom and DirecTV executives went down to the wire Friday on a combative contract renewal negotiation with high stakes for both sides. The companies stayed in talks past the midnight Eastern contract expiration and the channels stayed up on AT&T’s platforms. Sources indicated early Saturday that the threat of a blackout had been averted. [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

  • Ryan Murphy Walk of Fame

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets Premiere Date for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” series, and Kristin Cavallari will host “Paradise Hotel” on Fox.  DATES Reality star Kristin Cavallari will host Fox’s reboot of “Paradise Hotel,” an unscripted dating show in which a group of singles will check into a tropical resort and compete to check [...]

  • 'Selling Sunset': Producer Behind Netflix's First

    'Selling Sunset': Producer Behind Netflix's First Docusoap on the State of Reality TV

    Netflix crossed another unscripted threshold on Friday with the launch of “Selling Sunset,” an 8-episode series that follows a group of real estate agents on the Sunset Strip. The show is believed to be the streaming service’s first docusoap, the now-ubiquitous format first popularized in the early 2000s by shows like MTV’s “Laguna Beach” and [...]

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • 'Supernatural' to End After Season 15

    'Supernatural' to End After Season 15 on The CW

    “Supernatural” is ending after 15 seasons. Series stars Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and Misha Collins made the announcement in a video posted on Instagram on Friday. “We just told the crew that even though we’re very excited to be moving into our 15th season, it will be our last,” Ackles said. “15 years of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content