01x00 - First Look

Empire is a family dynasty, within the music business.

This family is quite dysfunctional.

It's a musical.

It's a story that's just provocative, and, um, sexy.

I was driving around L.A. one day and a song came on the radio, Jay-Z, or Puffy and it literally just popped into my head.

What about "The Lion in Winter" in a hip-hop empire.

And then my next thought was, "I think I need to call Lee Daniels".

He pitched it as a film to me.

The father, dying, three sons.

The mother coming out.

And I said, "No, Danny, it's a television series".

I am proud to announce, that Empire Entertainment has filed to become a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Our world of Empire Enterprises which is the story of Lucious Lyon and this great company he's built, from scratch, having grown up poor in the Philly ghetto, and he has come to discover that he's dying.

You got ALS.

How long I got?

Three years.

Most likely less.

All he wants is for this great empire that he's built, to live on long after he's gone.

And now part of us going public means insuring a legacy for this company after I'm gone.

I will start choosing a successor.

And it can only be one of you.

The successor talk have anything to do with Cookie?

What you talking about Cookie?

I haven't spoken to her since she got out, I figured you had.

Cookie's out?

Cookie throws the entire show off-balance, because you've got these characters that are extremely wealthy, that have been living at the top of the 1%... even higher than the 1%, the .001%, because they're not only incredibly rich, but they're incredibly famous.

Then all of a sudden, comes their mother, who's been in prison for the last seventeen years.

Cookie was the original gangster, Lucious was the artist.

Eighteen years ago, Lucious and Cookie were hustling, a drug deal went bad.

And Cookie has been away for seventeen years.

Cookie's coming home.

She was abandoned.

She risked her life for the family, not only her sons, for her husband, and they all turned their backs on her.

Let me in!

Y'all better have a elevator up in here, my feet hurt.

It has made her bitter, but at the end of the day she still loves her babies.

I was attracted to Cookie's layers.

She has so much going on, so much pain.

So much lost time she's trying to catch up on with her family.

What have I ever done to you, for you to treat me like this?

So wounded, but yet, still so strong.

What you gonna do now?

I'm here to get what's mine.

Cookie is a force to be reckoned with.

Don't forget me, baby.

Don't forget to thank your Cookie on this historic occasion.

She... is life at its best.

She lives out loud, she says what she wants to say there's no buffer, whatever she thinks, she says it.

She's a no nonsense kind of woman. She's my hero!

What if I were to disclose to the SEC that I was the original investor with $400,000 in drug money?

Your application for an IPO would be effectively denied.

The interesting thing about all of the characters in Empire, is that they all have agendas.

There would be no Lucious if there was no Cookie. He knows that.

Are you out of your damn mind?

I told you I was gonna hook you up.

And I'm telling you that's not enough.

When I was first approached with this script, I was like, "I love this role, however, I'm not doing it unless it's Terrence Howard."

Lucious needs to be a star. Within our story he's this great star, the way Jay-Z and Puffy, and Kanye are these great stars.

So we needed an actor that had that kind of magnetism.

And you're not gonna find it more than in Terrence Howard.

This is a very coveted role.

Lee has known Terrence quite a long time, and he's had tremendous film success with him.

I got a call from Lee Daniels, and he said that he had something for me.

I started selling drugs when I was nine years old in Philadelphia.

I did it to feed myself.

But it was the music that played in my head.

That kept me alive when I thought I was gonna get shot.

And it was the melodies that I dreamt about, that kept me warm when I was sleeping in the streets.

♪ Never a ♪
♪ I'm all point, flowin' double joint ♪
♪ you just a little boy ♪
♪ you a boy I'm a man you should be playing with your toy ♪

You see, music saved my life.

Lucious is a very complex man.

He is riddled with guilt.

I can't imagine what you've been through, Cookie.

But you've gotta know you're not the only one that suffered in this.

You forgot about me the second you divorced me in there.

He is who he is because of how talented and how amazing he is, a lot of which I think, originally came from his relationship with Cookie.

Because she is so good at what she does.

I went away for your *** time to build all of this.

I missed my sons growing up.

I'm gonna make some things right.

He's got the talent, he's got the flash, he's got the business mind.

He's got it all. And through that, he has created this literal empire that is one of the largest music companies in the nation, if not the world.

He's been able to rise up, from such a tough upbringing, to such great success, I think.

He's a true representation of the American dream.

We've got these riveting actors. The sons that we discover, Jussie and Yazz and Trai, they're just amazing actors. and I think people are gonna be really blown away.

Jamal, this is the last time I'm gonna have this talk with you.

Your sexuality, that's your choice there.

I get it. 'Cause a sissy can't sell records to the black community, I get it.

You really need to stop calling yourself that.

Well, that's what I am, dad.

I'm trying to help you, son.

Then why don't you get to know me?

I auditioned like everybody else.

I went in seven different times.

I sang for my life. My character Jamal is, a somewhat complicated character in the sense that he is a musical prodigy.

But he shies away from the spotlight.

♪ I'll never be big enough to pay your dues ♪
♪ but I keep trying ♪

Jamal is similar to Lucious, in that they are both these true artists at the highest level.

And they should be best friends.

And there's a tragic element to the fact that his father just can't understand him.

Jamal is gay, and Lucious won't accept that.

You're different.

It's only something Mommy knows, but always remember, I got you.

Jamal is her favorite.

He came to visit her when nobody else would.

For seventeen years, that's how she kept in touch with what was going on with her other sons and the family.

The relationship between Jamal and Lucious is very distant... because he believes that his father doesn't care too much about him.

♪ I'll never be big enough to pay your dues ♪
♪ but I keep trying ♪

What makes Jamal so dangerous to to the other two brothers, is he is the perfect combination of both of us. The strength, the savvy, the talent, everything.

She is driven to make him a star just because people are saying he can't.

I'm living like a dog for seventeen years.

And now, I want what's mine.

I want Jamal.

And you would sink this whole empire over that.

Give me Jamal.

You got him.

I never wanted him anyway.

I know.

At the end of the day, it's about money and the entertainment industry, but it is a show about a family that's... just trying to make it work.

He's hung over again, Dad.

♪ You want juice, you want Jimmy ♪
♪ you want this, I give fit... ♪

What's the damn word again?

The word is, you're a mess.

The word is, you are a disappointment.

The word is, you are wasting my time.

You wastin' my time!

I came as the inspiration factor on the show.

He gives you style, he's a trendsetter, and a lot of people relate to her because of right now. ***

He's so green, but he's so good.

♪ Lights, camera, action ♪
♪ tonight gon' be a movie ♪
♪ I just ordered fifty bottles of Cîroc, Rosé and ♪♪♪ ♪

I'm willing to do anything to get this company.

He clearly wants the youngest son, Hakeem, to have the empire, because Hakeem has the DNA of a future superstar.

And that's probably what would happen if it weren't for the fact, that his ex-wife, Cookie, gets out of jail, at the very beginning of the pilot.

And that simple little act throws all his plans into chaos.

Hakeem is more his father. All swag, all attitude, pompous, everything is about him; spoiled.

I just want you to know everything I did was for you and your brothers.

I ended up where I ended up for you and your brothers.

You want a medal?

What I want is some respect! She visits the baby son who has major mommy issues, because when Cookie went away to jail, he was still an infant, I don't even think he was a year old yet.

So he doesn't remember her at all.

Lucious sees in Hakeem, the power of a great lyricist.

But he sees the laziness.

Hakeem knows he's gifted.

Hakeem knows he's beautiful, and he knows that he's wealthy.

So he doesn't try.

♪ She loves the spotlights ♪
♪ She makes that thing go drip, dry, drip, dripitty dry ♪

They are being used as weapons.

Unconsciously by Cookie.

Consciously by Lucious. Lucious is very twisted.

She try to manage my career.

Yeah, well if you're doing that working with her, and pop's handling me, best believe they trying to make us kill each other.

That ain't gonna happen.

What if, your two brothers went to war?

I'm the last man standing.

The oldest son, Andre Lyon, is the only one of the sons that isn't a musician, but is brilliant.

And he went to the Wharton School of Business.

He's the CFO of the company.

In many ways, through his eyes, he is the obvious heir apparent to Empire Enterprises.

Look at 'em.

Your brothers are showing off again.

That's what they do, babe.

*** I want to live inside a movie *** ***

Because his father believes that it's gonna take another superstar to keep the company going, poor Andre is sort of pushed off to the side.

Put your heart and guts into this company.

Which makes me the most qualified to run the company, Dad.

This is an issue of, Lucious not loving Andre as much as Hakeem, or even Jamal.

And Andre, he knows about the business side, but he lacks the musical appreciation.

And that's Lucious' language.

You know, that sophisticated thug, but Andre lacks the thug.

And the thug is the heart of Lucious.

Andre with the help of his wife, Rhonda, isn't gonna allow himself to just be pushed away so easily.

The whole time, I think she will be the one behind this sort of manipulation and evil and wanting to tear the family apart, so that Andre and her are the last people around.

She's very proud of Andre.

He's the smartest, so he went to the Ivy League schools and he really made something of himself, and she feels guilty because she wasn't there.

You really love me, Ma?

Ok. Here's what we gotta do.

At this point, Cookie is an asset.

Cookie is a tool, for Andre to, subvert, to circumvent, to sidestep his way into the leadership role at Empire Enterprises.

Timbaland, are you crazy?

Look, here's the thing.

We're trendsetting with costumes, and hair design and... and music.

We have one of the best producers of our time, working on the music, Timbaland.

I know we gonna have a lot of music.

♪ Tell the truth ♪

Lee Daniels knew that Timbaland was the guy, to do the music for our show.

And he went after him with a laser focus that I have never seen. It was amazing.

I asked my kids to tell me, who was the hottest hip-hop producer out right now.

And they said, "Dad, the hottest producer out right now is Timbaland.

Timbaland is always five steps ahead of the game.

So I feel like it only makes sense that Lee who I believe is also always 50 million steps ahead of the game, would choose someone like Timbaland to come on, to work with Empire.

Empire shows how powerful music is.

The jealousy, the envy, and the prosperity. It shows modern day music business.

♪ I gave you all of me ♪
♪ but it still ain't enough to make you happy ♪

I tried to do the songs to where it hits you, so you know, it really feels like my life.

You can expect, from Empire, is Timbaland.

The Timbaland that you saw from Ginuwine to Aaliyah, to Missy Elliott.

This is Timbaland at his highest peak.

He truly is the Quincy Jones of my generation.

Everyone who knows Timbaland's stuff knows that his stuff is just, I mean, amazing.

The music's been brilliant.

It was actually quite exciting, that week in and week out, we have a show about the music business, with real hip-hop music written by Timbaland, one of the great writers of our times.

It's been a fun process. And FOX has been so great to us.

They have challenged me in a lot of ways, and I love it.

I can't wait for the audience to fall in love with the songs, and to fall in love with these three sons, that are all... super, super, super cute.

♪ And we can do it ♪
♪ all right now ♪
♪ Can't nobody ♪
♪ Turn me down ♪
♪ If you want it, I've got it ♪
♪ Tomorrow's not promised ♪
♪ Live inside the moment ♪
♪ Oh no ♪

Music is the heart of Empire.

And there's so many great songs, that also can stand on their own.

My music, and, Yazz who plays Hakeem, his music, uh, Terrence's music who plays Lucious, it all ties in and it tells a story.

The music is the backdrop, it's the foundation of the show.

Empire, to me, is just about current day music business.

What are some of the obstacles, to get to where you're trying to go in music.

What are you wearing?

What I got locked up in.

We gonna change that real quick.

Empire is music, and fashion.

Fashion and music is international, it's inspirational, it's worldwide, it's everything.

It defines who you are as a character.

We are getting amazing pieces from Monique who, is Timbaland's wife. She's been very generous, and she has an amazing wardrobe.

I've gone to my closet. Some stuff is vintage, some stuff is brand new.

We mix it up, a lot.

You're talking about women and men, who get runway pieces before these pieces even are available to the public.

So, you know, it's very important that we show that 'cause a lot of people are gonna be watching for the fashion.

Taraji is, just... she puts anything on, and it's just magic. Totally magic.

She puts it on, and is the character, and living and breathing and you know, you can see yourself in her.

The designs for the jacket line need approval by noon.

And the Tonight Show wants you to...

Pass.

Lucious' look is inspired by, Tony Montana, Barry Gordon, Clive Davis, Jay-Z ***, Puffy.

Well, I believe that Lucious feels that presentation is everything, you only get one shot to make the first impression, all those clichés, Lucious has listened to them, and he dresses accordingly to always looks his very best.

They are truly representing a billionaire family.

There's a lot of pride that goes with that.

There's a lot of, "I got it first", "I have it"... you know, the image is everything.

There's so much swag, and so much confidence, and so much gusto in importance in everybody's character.

Fashion houses are very particular about the things that they create, so they only make a few of them, the special pieces, and the special things that we actually as an audience want to see on the Lyons family.

If you don't have the fashion, the show kinda misses.

The fearlessness of this show, I think, is what makes everyone so incredibly excited.

The world that Lee and Danny Strong have created, it's very authentic, it's bigger than life. It's fun and it's glamorous.

What Lee does, is he makes those real worlds look beautiful and vibrant.

They're really almost symphonic.

Our writer, Danny Strong, he's so wonderfully talented.

The entire script just jumps off the page at you.

It's gonna be a show about class struggles, a show that's an original musical.

A show with Academy Award nominated actors.

I think everything about this show just works.

Something's got you shook, Lucious.

Like it's chasing you.

Whatever it is, you're trying to hide it.

But you know you can't hide from me.

You can't hide from me, Lucious.

The scenes are very compelling, having it anchored with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, these brilliant actors, I think is a real gift to audiences.

It was my intention when I pitched this to FOX, to redefine fashion, to redefine music.

I showed it to Oprah Winfrey, and she says, "it redefines television".

So I'm like, "I'll take it".

You better be careful.

So yous gonna let him talk to me like that.

If he says something I disagree with, I'll let you know.

I think it's brilliant how Cookie stays real and true to herself.

She's so real and so raw.

***, get my shoes.

I'm coming.

Straight, no chaser, that's Cookie.

Empire is absolutely the first real depiction as a drama on TV, of the music industry. People get to experience the inside of what really happens and goes on.

'Cause you don't get to see that.

You see the videos, you hear the music, they get real.

Music is the backbone and the semi-random muscle and the blood.

It's the very heart of Empire.

We're showing the world, the new way of selling music, by getting to know a character, but giving him real music.

♪ Getting it nasty ♪
♪ I eat you for breakfast ♪
♪ Tie it to my necklace ♪
♪ that's just what I'm blessed with ♪
♪ I'm a revolutionary ♪
♪ caught in my vocabulary ♪
♪ I don't even remember ever carrying ♪
♪ even when I'm in the cemetery ♪
♪ Legendary ♪

It's different, new, edgy, never been done before.

Hopefully, will change the course of a lot of other shows.

It's a family drama, set in a rich world.

There's music, there's just amazing, electrifying characters.

And, my gut is, it's gonna be one of the shows that people they're not gonna want to set their DVRs, they're gonna want to watch it when it airs.

Race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, it does not matter.

You can, relate to at least one character in the show.

I think there's a real thirst for it out there, and I think FOX is the place to bring it to everyone.

To Empire!