'Empire' Showrunner Talks Ongoing Spinoff Conversations, Possible 'Star' Crossover

Exec producer Ilene Chaiken also reflected on the decision to kill off two LGBT characters in April at the beginning of the "Bury Your Gays" trope.
Courtesy of FOX
'Empire'

With the continued success of Fox's Empire comes the continuing questions about a possible spinoff of the hip-hop drama — a query showrunner Ilene Chaiken faced Monday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

"There certainly could be and we talk about it," she told reporters. "I think the show offers so many opportunities. There are potential spinoffs with Lucious and Cookie's characters, sure."

Chaiken's quotes come a year after Empire co-creator Lee Daniels made headlines at Fox's 2015 summer press tour when he told the room, "There will be a spinoff." Since then, a spinoff has yet to come to fruition and Daniels is juggling two series: Empire as well as his first-year drama Star, which centers on an up-and-coming girl group.

Chaiken also sounded open to the possibility of a crossover between Empire and Star. Fox is no stranger to crossovers between series, with New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine set to crossover this fall.

"We haven’t talked about it yet. I think the show needs to launch first," Chaiken said of Star, which premieres midseason on Fox. "But certainly, there's potential for it. The worlds, they're both grounded worlds and stories about music, so it's not outside the realm of possibility."

Looking back, Chaiken discussed what the writers learned in season two, particularly with the increased episode order of 18 for season two, versus 12 in season one. The second season received slightly more lukewarm reviews than the first, particularly the first half. 

"The stories that work best and that we love telling most are about the family," she said. "That always will be the focus no matter what's going to happen at Empire."

Chaiken also reflected on the negative attention the show received for killing off not one but two LGBT characters, Naomi Campbell's Camilla and Marisa Tomei's Mimi. Both were killed off in the same April episode just as the Bury Your Gays trope was heating up due to notable character demises on shows such as The 100 and The Walking Dead.

"The Kill Your Gays trope, I personally didn’t think that we were falling into it, but we did get drawn into it and I'm respectful of the way it's been taken up in the public conversation," said Chaiken. "Anytime we go near any issue like that, we try to be very mindful of it and responsible."

The showrunner said the experience had informed the writer's room going forward: "Apart from some specific entertainment industry trends that we fell into a little bit, what we try to be mindful of is that even though we're telling stories, you can't do that lightly. Killing is not your go-to move. It's a huge move and we always challenge ourselves to find other places to go before we go there because that’s an endgame."

However, that doesn't mean that everyone is necessarily safe. The season two finale teased the death of either Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) or Anika (Grace Gealey) after a rooftop argument that seemed to end with one of the two ladies being thrown off a high-rise building.

"We answer the question," said Chaiken. "The question that was posed gets answered in a fabulous and heart-stopping way."

Empire is set to kick off its third season Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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