8:00am PT by Kate Stanhope
'Empire' Showrunner Teases Midseason Return: "Hakeem Has to Make a Choice"
The Lyons spent the first half of Empire's second season at odds as Cookie and Hakeem went off to form their own rival label to Empire. But, naturally, it was only a matter of time before the family found themselves back on the same side.
"The second half of the season is about family coming back together to win back the empire," showrunner Ilene Chaiken tells The Hollywood Reporter. "That's what the show is all about. This family will always come together and break apart. That's going to be the story of their lives. It’s the cycle of life for the Lyons."
However, there's still one person on the outs: Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray). In the final moments of the fall finale, he voted to have his father thrown off Empire's board as pushed by his ex-girlfriend, and Mimi's wife, Camilla (Naomi Campbell).
"Hakeem is going to have to make a choice. Is he with Camilla or is he with his family? That’s a hard choice," Chaiken says. "There's no middle ground for Hakeem. He's either with them or against them."
Hakeem also has to make a choice when it comes to his heart. Although he was hot and heavy with Camilla in season one, in her absence his attentions have since shifted to Laura (Jamila Velazquez).
"When Camilla comes back, Hakeem is in love with someone else. That’s a great life story. You love someone, she goes away, you think its over, you finally move on with your life …," Chaiken says. "He's got to figure out whether he still loves her or whether he's really moved on."
These tough decisions the youngest Lyon is suddenly faced with will ultimately have bigger ramifications. "This whole season for Hakeem is the story of growing up, and we've seen him grow up so much in the first half of the season," Chaiken says. "The second half of the season really completes that arc for him."
Although the rest of the Lyon family is technically on the same side of things, there's still plenty of in-fighting — particularly since Lucious and Jamal (Jussie Smollett) are up against each other at the ASA Awards.
"He's pitted against his father and he's got to figure out who he is as an artist, and he's got to figure out whether he's going to take on his father, who now is coming after his own dream," Chaiken says. "He gave up so much to be an artist and Luscious winds up being his primary adversary."
It's safe to say Lucious won't be backing down anytime soon. "Lucious is the ultimate ego-driven man and he does everything for his family, but he's not about to be surpassed by anyone," Chaiken says. "He seems himself as a god. He's the sun and everybody orbits around him."
However, it sounds like the eldest Lyon son may have the roughest go of it when the series returns. After all, the episode ended with Andre's pregnant wife, Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) being pushed down the stairs in the middle of the night.
"Andre is going to struggle. He struggles for his life, for his sanity, for his marriage and to find his place," Chaiken says. "He's got a whole lot coming at him in the second half of the season that goes right to that core issue: Who am I? How did I become who I am? What are the secrets that his father kept from him that actually are fundamental to his very existence? There's a big, big reveal coming for Andre in the latter half of the season."
Empire returns on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.