4:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Empire' Creators Leave Door Open for More: "There's More to Do With These Characters"
Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are optimistic that there's more story left in their Fox hip-hop drama.
On Tuesday, Fox announced that the April 21 episode of the drama starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson would officially serve as its series finale as its two remaining hours could not be produced amid the near-industrywide production shutdown. Still, Daniels and Strong left the door open for a proper series finale to be produced at some point down the line when it's safe to resume production amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
"The success of Empire and bringing the Lyon family to broadcast television will always be one of the proudest achievements of my career," Daniels said in a statement. "This show is the definition of breaking barriers. Thank you to our incredible cast, especially Terrence and Taraji, along with our amazing writers and tireless crew, for all of their hard work and bringing this story to life. I think there’s more to do with these characters, and I’m heartbroken we aren’t getting to shoot the finale we wanted — at least not yet. But you know what they say in television? Stay tuned! To the Empire!”
Last May, Fox announced that the series would wrap its run with a 20-episode sixth and final season. Meanwhile, Fox opted cancel its low-rated Empire spinoff Star last year following a three-season run.
"We’re so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast — led by Taraji and Terrence — and crew accomplished over six seasons. The episode airing on April 21 was never meant to be the series finale, but due to current events it will likely be the last one our fans will see for a while," Strong said. "We had an ending for the series planned that we all loved, and hopefully someday we’ll be able to film it and give the series its proper conclusion. But we hope everyone tunes in to our last original episode, because the work done by our cast and crew deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible. Big thank you to Fox for being our home for these many years. And here’s hoping this isn’t the end!”
The April 21 episode, titled "Home Is on the Way," will see Henson's Cookie reflect on her life and the woman she has become as Lucious (Howard) and the Lyons face their biggest threat yet. The episode will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
Both Daniels and Strong's statements leave the door open to a potential wrap-up TV movie — which other franchises, like CBS' flagship Crime Scene Investigation have done over the years — or even a possible follow-up series. One possibility is a Henson-led Cookie spinoff, which Fox, Strong and Daniels have all embraced. The latter would keep the Empire franchise alive and well on Fox at a time when proven hits are in high demand as they remain cheaper to market and come with a built-in audience. Ever since Empire's debut, Daniels has expressed optimism about a traditional spinoff from the mega-hit. Star, it is worth noting, was more of a companion series that existed in the same universe and eventually crossed over with Empire.
Empire is one of two veteran broadcast shows that had their final seasons cut short by the massive production shutdown. The CW's Supernatural also was unable to complete work on its 15th and concluding season. Others, including Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat and How to Get Away With Murder, among others, were able to wrap before Safer at Home mandates were put in place across the country.