The season finale of FOX’s hit series Empire airs tonight and we had the chance to chat with one of the show’s co-creators, Danny Strong, about what it was like to have Debbie Allen direct part of the episode, how Empire came to be and which character he’d choose to give a spin-off.
When looking at Danny Strong’s background, whether you remember him as Doyle from Gilmore Girls or Albert Fekus from Justified, a question that may come to mind is “How in the world did this man get wrapped up in this show?!” but fans are certainly glad he did! “It was really just driven by the idea. When I came up with the idea, it was as a movie, and I thought it could be this really cool hip-hop movie musical that I pitched to Lee Daniels. Then he called me the next day and said, “I can’t stop thinking about it, but I think it’s a TV show.” And, I instantly knew he was right, because it was about a family, and great TV shows are about families.”
From that point on, Empire the TV show was born and the two creative talents put their heads together to flesh out the idea. “Then we instantly started talking about Dallas and Dynasty. So it was this, it just kind of, organically come from the concept; as opposed to me setting out wanting to do “something different,” I, kind of really don’t work that way. I don’t thing about—I’m just idea driven. So, whatever the idea is, so what’s the best genre for that idea, what’s the best place to do it, etc., kind of how I work.”
Tonight’s season finale promises to bring fans tons of drama, scandal and possibly even murder, but what many fans may not know is that the second half of tonight’s highly-anticipated episode was directed by the legendary Debbie Allen. “Debbie was so cool. I grew up watching Fame, and I co-wrote with Ilene Chaiken that episode that Debbie directed, so I was on set for a bit, and she’s sort of everything you’d imagine her to be. She’s just super cool, super hip, really smart, really talented, and I remember there was this cat fight that she was directing, and at one point she yelled out this direction, “Now toss the b***,” and I just remember thinking “That is, I think, the greatest piece of direction I’ve ever heard in my career.”” (Cookie v. Boo Boo Kitty fight anyone?!)
Finally, Strong shared which supporting character he’d want to have their own spin-off series…and fans would be hard-pressed to disagree. “Which character, I mean, don’t you think Porsha? Maybe Porsha?….because she is a comic genius, she’s hilarious, and I believe it’s [Ta’Rhonda Jones’] first acting job…So, I think that could be an absolutely hilarious, maybe it’ll be like a buddy-cop show and I’ll play her sidekick.”
The 2-hour season finale of Empire airs tonight from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on FOX.