“Empire’s” third season left off on a yet another tragic note for the Lyon family after Lucious (Terrence Howard) was caught in an explosion for which his own family set him up. Without his memory of who his family is, he is relying on his caretaker (guest star Demi Moore) to heal him back to health. While Moore will be an important part of the fourth season, though, executive producers Lee Daniels, Ilene Chaiken, and Sanaa Hamri say the new episodes will see a return to the core of the show, the Lyon family and dynasty.
“When we start to focus too much on guest stars we lose who it is that the fans want to watch,” Daniels says, noting he pays attention to what the audience of the show is saying about the show. “They’re obsessed with the Lyons. They’re obsessed with family. They’re obsessed with the story of Lucious and Cookie and Jamal and Andre and Hakeem.”
The dynamics of the Lyon family have evolved greatly since the show premiered and the three sons (Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, and Bryshere Y. Gray) were fighting to take their father’s place at the top of their record company at a time their mother Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) just got out of prison. Now, the family is divided not only by ways of doing business but also by dark secrets some share.
“Given that Lucious has always had issues with his mother and is now having issues with his memory, the big question is going to be, ‘What’s the relationship between the two of them?'” Chaiken says of a key season four mystery. “He’s the only one who knows that she killed Tariq. Is he going to remember? Is he going to say anything?”
Lucious certainly has an uphill battle this season, and as past seasons have shown, his family members aren’t always the best people to be in his corner. He has done so much wrong to them that they often try to settle the score. Rallying around him now will be an extended member of the family in “Uncle Eddie” (Forest Whittaker), a music icon who mentored Lucious in his early days. Yes, the Oscar winner will be singing this season, too.
“Forest has been a mentor to me in my own personal life,” Howard says. “The role I played in ‘Crash’ was originally Forest’s role, and Forest had stepped out to do his directorial debut and recommended me for that character. So for Forest to play a mentor for Lucious [is extra specia]. We haven’t seen a lot of Lucious’ past collaborators.”
Though producers are boasting a smaller guest cast this season, Whittaker will be new to ‘Empire’ when season four starts. He joins returning guests Taye Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, Leslie Uggams, and Moore. But producers and Howard both feel Whittaker’s appearance on the show will raise the stakes and standards of the show.
“‘Empire’s’ going to be ‘Empire,’ and I think our fans will follow us, it’s exciting,” Daniels says.
“Empire” returns to Fox on September 27 at 8 p.m.