Inside the chess match of FOX’s “Empire”

Empire on FOX Ryan Berenz

“I need you to sing like you are going to die tomorrow. Like this is the last song you will ever sing,” music mogul Lucious Lyon instructs a songstress in the recording studio. But he might as well be talking about himself.

With the intensity and intrigue of a Shakespearean history play, FOX’s new drama Empire (Wednesdays beginning Jan. 7 at 9pm ET/PT) depicts a family’s power struggle for the Empire Entertainment throne. From creators Lee Daniels (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Danny Strong (Game Change), Empire plays like a chess match with money, fame, love and power the ultimate prize.

Here are the major players looking to get what’s theirs in Empire:

Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) The CEO of Empire Entertainment overcame the hard streets of Philadelphia through his music to build a company on the verge of going public. A medical diagnosis has him planning which of his sons will succeed him.

Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) Lucious’ ex-wife and mother of his three boys spent 17 years in prison for dealing drugs. Now free, she’s come back to claim her half of Empire.

Andre Lyon (Trai Byers) Eldest son Andre has business smarts, but his lack of personality and music talent don’t fit in a celebrity-driven industry. He’s also easily swayed by his manipulative wife.

Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) Middle son Jamal is a gifted musician, but his sexual orientation and his father’s disapproval have kept him underground. But Cookie has plans to make Jamal a star, if only to spite Lucious.

Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Gray) Youngest son Hakeem has the talent, the style and the celebrity image, but he’s spoiled and lazy, and wastes his potential on women and booze.

Vernon Turner (Malik Yoba) Lucious’ sycophantic business counselor is Empire chairman of the board. He backs Andre becoming CEO.

Anika Gibbons (Grace Gealey) Lucious’ young, beautiful girlfriend is also in charge of Empire’s talent scouting and development.

Bunkie Campbell (Antoine McKay) A friend of Lucious from back in the day, Bunkie wants money to pay off steep gambling debts, and he’s willing to blackmail Lucious to get it.

Empire on FOX

Photo: © 2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX

About Ryan Berenz 2045 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.