×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PaleyFest Kicks Off with ‘Empire’ & Cast Clears Up Rumors of Trai Byers Leaving Show

Empire” is the number one show on broadcast television, but the hip-hop hit declined in ratings during its second season, after breaking records in its debut season, hitting an all-time overnight high of nearly 18 million viewers. Many fans and critics attributed the lower numbers to some outlandish storylines, such as digging up a dead body. When the drama returns with the back-half of its second season on March 30, co-creator Lee Daniels promises “Empire” goes back to its roots.

“What happened is that it was growing pains,” Daniels said Friday night at PaleyFest, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, admitting that the show went a bit to the “left.” He added, “I think it would have happened to any show, and though we still remained number one, we were learning … I think it’s just a process. It’s trial and error. At the end of the day, well, we came back. How do you make greatness without testing it?”

Asked by moderator Kevin Frazier when the “Empire” team knew the show was a hit, exec producer Brian Grazer quipped, “Well, we certainly didn’t know it when a bunch of networks turned us down.”

Then asked, “What was it like when the show exploded?” cast member Bryshere Gray cracked, “You know, I stopped eating ramen noodles!”

Sitting in front of a packed house, Daniels expressed his gratitude to the millions of fans watching the show.

“When I say that it is an honor to see people of color through not only the homes of America, but to Brazil and to Spain and to Italy, and they’re getting a sneak peek into what it’s like to be in our world, and not only that it’s part of the African-American experience, but that I have, as my partners, white people that are able to tell the story in an universal way, words can’t describe my happiness for all of us and the humility that we all have,” Daniels said. Sitting next to Grazer, he continued, “Brian and I do movies so we didn’t know the impact of television.”

As with any pop culture phenomenon, explosive success comes with a price. In “Empire’s” case, the show recently battled reports of one of its stars Trai Byers leaving the show.

“You know when I knew we made it?” Daniels began. “When I picked up Page Six and saw that Trai Byers was leaving the show. I said, ‘Boy we are a hit!’ Because they are taking about us and there are rumors and this is great. This is when you know. The haters are gonna hate.”

With a laugh, leading man Terrence Howard jumped in, joking, “I begged Trai to please stay on the show!”

Asked point blank if he is leaving the show, Byers exclaimed: “No!”

Byers then elaborated, saying, “There’s not a stich of truth to it, but it shows the love and popularity to the show … Again, it’s not true, but it opens the ground to really talk about how media uses their power to perpetuate negativity built on lies versus positivity which is built on truth. There are a lot of people on this people who do great things that aren’t publicized … The truth has to ring louder than the lies.”

Daniels summed up the conversation: “Here’s the bottom line,” he said to a cheering crowd. “We are where we are and ‘aint nobody going to take us down. We are tight, and the haters are gonna hate!”

Speaking of haters, when asked by an audience member about the industry’s diversity crisis, highlighted by this year’s Oscar nominees, Daniels said, “I don’t have time for racism. Am I delusional to say there is racism in America? Look at f–ing Donald Trump.”

More TV

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Series Mania: De Mensen, Reel One

    Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project 'Capturing Big Mouth' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth. The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of [...]

  • 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 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content