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Following its smash first season, Empire has welcomed a slew of celebrity guest stars in its second season including Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Marisa Tomei.
But despite various reports to the contrary, Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey won’t be joining that impressive lineup.
“None of those people are going to actually be on the show so I can’t control what names all of a sudden take off as being guest stars because they’re not,” co-creator and executive producer Danny Strong told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday at Fox’s winter press tour party.
Reports about the two A-listers‘ appearances have been swirling for months. Lee Daniels told THR as early as last March that he had reached out to Winfrey about appearing. Then in August, Daniels announced that Carey would be guest-starring on the hip-hop drama during her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.
“Watch her on Empire, you guys. She’s coming on Empire,” he told the crowd at the time.
Daniels later backtracked on Winfrey’s appearance in September, telling Vanity Fair, “We just couldn’t fit her into the schedule. She really wanted to do the show, but she’s going to be on next season for sure.”
Daniels has worked with both women before. Winfrey co-starred in his most recent feature film, 2013’s The Butler, which Strong wrote. Carey also appeared in The Butler as well as Daniels’ 2009 effort, Precious.
If anything, Strong says the show will be pulling back on such stunt casting when Empire returns March 30. “In the second half of the season it’s going to be way lighter on the celebrity guest stars,” he said.
Looking ahead to season three of the series, which was announced Friday at Fox’s Television Critics Association presentation, Strong said there have been no talks yet about what’s to come beyond season two.
But when asked specifically about episode count, Strong said he’s hopeful that season three will not run more than 18 episodes, just like season two. “I don’t really want to do more,” he said. “It’s hard to pull the show off.”
However, Strong also doesn’t see Empire scaling back either. The show’s first season consisted of just 12 episodes. “I don’t think they would let us,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an option.”
Empire returns Wednesday, March 30 at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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