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Thursday 10 November 2016

TV preview: Empire

Posted in: Television, Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 19th May 2015

When Empire hits NZ screens tonight, you’re going to want to check it out, for a lot of reasons – including a lead gay character, and the diva to rule them all - Cookie Lyon.

Jussie Smollett plays gay middle son Jamal

The gist is it’s a hip hop soap opera. Empire focuses on the Lyon music empire, headed by patriarch and music legend Lucious Lyon (played by Terrence Howard), who finds out he has some major health issues. He has three sons and is considering which one of them should take over – the sharp corporate man, the gay R&B singer or the young upstart rapper who reminds him most of himself.

Jamal, middle son, who is gay and a talented R&B musician, is played by singer and actor Jussie Smollett. Jamal struggles with a father who refuses to deal with his sexuality, and the show looks at whether coming out will ultimately help, hinder, or have little impact on his career.

Gay intimacy on primetime TV? Check.

Empire deals with sexuality in the world of hip hop where the dents are still being made in the walls. While it’s hard to know what really goes on behind the scenes in the real world, Jamal’s story is an interesting portrayal of what things might be like.

Throw in Jamal’s mum, Cookie, being released from jail, where she did the time that allowed Lyon empire to even exist, and you have just a few layers of the drama that are only enhanced by the divas and big spenders of the hip hop world.

Trust us. You need some Cookie Lyon in your life.

There are guest stars ranging from Courtney Love to Gladys Knight, but Cookie Lyon is the one diva to rule them all. If you like sass with a side of sass, Cookie Lyon will be your new cult heroine. Played by Taraji P. Henson, Cookie steals the show with lines like "Yeah, that's my name. Take a bite." She throws stilettos, she doesn’t take any shit, but she also has a heart of gold and is tight with her gay son Jamal.

One of Empire’s Executive Producers is Ilene Chaiken, of The L Word fame, and Empire has that kind of drama – just without all the lesbians. Though it emerges during the series that one female character is bisexual.

Check it out - Empire will probably become your new hip hop soap addiction. Oh and the music is pretty good too.

Empire starts tonight at 8.45pm on TV2.

Jacqui Stanford - 19th May 2015

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