With recent pickup Gotham, Fox is tying into their audience’s love for Batman, and with Gang Related, they’re tying into people’s love for The Departed. The upcoming hip-hop-centered drama Empire, for which the network put in a full series order, is apparently Fox's way of feeding upon America’s untapped interest in an unofficial sequel to Craig Brewer’s 2005 drama Hustle & Flow. And I tell you what, it’s been hard out here for those of us who have been waiting so long (i.e. pimps.)
With its initial 13-episode season, Empire will be the first trip into television for Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels, who developed the series his co-screenwriter on last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Danny Strong, most recently seen on FX’s Justified as a total douche of a prison guard. Strong, who also co-wrote both entries of The Hunger Games: Mockingbird, has written the pilot, which Daniels is set to direct. No word on whether or not either will stick to those duties for future episodes.
Terrance Howard, who worked with Daniels in The Butler, will star as Lucious Lyon, the street-tough head of music label Empire Entertainment, which he rules over with a charismatic fist. He is about to take the company public, which will add untold amounts of pressure to his life, and he’ll face it all head-on in defense of his beloved creation. Also starring with Howard is Hustle & Flow co-star Taraji P. Henson, who will play his ex-wife and former business partner Cookie, as well as Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Jussie Smollett (The Mighty Ducks), Kaitlin Doubleday (Dragon Warriors), Trai Byers (90210), Malik Yoba (Alphas), Tasha Smith (For Better or Worse) and Grace Gealey.
On top of its talented cast and creative team, Empire will also feature a major musical presence. The soundtrack will be put together by the Grammy-winning producer TImbaland, and should include both original music and current pop tracks, plus covers. But will any of it create the award-winning waves of Hustle & Flow’s signature track “Hard Out Here for a Pimp?”
According to EW, Fox also ordered the coming-of-age series Red Band Society, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment. It will follow a group of teenagers living in a big city hospital, all of whom become unlikely friends, with Octavia Spencer starring as the main nurse.
Fox hasn’t announced when they’ll be going into production on either show, but expect something soon with the fall season coming up in just a few months. I wonder if Daniels cleared things with Universal over their 2002 thriller Empire, lest we sit down to watch Lee Daniel’s Empire later in the year.