When “Empire” and “Star” return for their fourth and second seasons, respectively, this Fox on Fall, the first episodes of each will bleed into the other in a one-night, two-hour special crossover event. It is something that the co-creator and executive producer of both shows, Lee Daniels, never intended to do but which felt like a natural fit once the idea came up.
“[‘Star’ is] its own entity and another part of my life that I was trying to explore as an artist, but then Fox suggested [a crossover], and it just sort of seemed logical, so I just went with the flow,” Daniels says.
However, series star Queen Latifah says the crossover was “in [her] brain from day one” because of how similar the shows are, not only with the shared backdrop of the music industry but also the themes of their characters. “The binding material between the two shows is that each group in each world is at two different levels of success, but they know what it’s like to come from nothing. And with hard work there’s the possibility there for them to succeed,” Latifah says.
“Empire’s” Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and her own Carlotta on “Star,” Latifah notes, are “both strong, powerful women who have been through some things and wear those scars and have overcome a lot. They share some things in their core and are a lot alike.”
“The main difference is that Cookie has success and money, and Carlotta doesn’t,” Latifah says. “Carlotta’s empire is much, much smaller. It’s [her] salon, it’s bringing her family back together, if you will, and her family is this hodgepodge of people. She’s dipped her toe in a world that Cookie’s lived in. Some things she likes about it and some things she really hates and does not want these girls to be in it. But if they’re going to be in it, who better to protect them?”
The second season premiere of “Star” will feature a strong “Empire” connection when Cookie comes to town, as well as by the girl group performing a cover of “You’re So Beautiful,” first made famous by Lucious (Terrence Howard) and then redone in a poignant coming out for Jamal (Jussie Smollett) on the first season of “Empire.” But the opening scene is centered solely on the characters the audience has come to know and love from the first season. Setting the tone for the potential success the girls’ group may achieve this season, the first scene is a music number that pays homage to Bob Fosse and even features a cameo from Daniels as himself.
“This season they’re going to be battling to stay together and using their ‘Wonder Woman’ bracelets to battle a love triangle with this awesome new character played by Luke James,” executive producer and new series showrunner Karin Gist says.
The show won’t be shying away from issues either, from continuing to follow Cotton (Amiyah Scott), who wants to full transition but isn’t fully accepted and is dealing with new legal woes, to looking at how hard it can be for those who try to reclaim their lives after incarceration. “We’re going to throw whatever we can at the audience to get them to think and to throw the mirror up,” Gist says. “We’re exploring what it’s like to come up, what it’s like to be knocked back down, but also to be relevant. It’s what draws people to the show.”
“Star” returns to Fox on September 27 at 9 p.m.