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The world of Empire will continue at Fox.
The independent broadcast network is reteaming with Taraji P. Henson for an untitled Empire spinoff, with the actress behind Cookie Lyon reprising her role in the potential series. The offshoot, which is in development, is the first project to stem from a newly signed two-year first-look deal that Henson has signed with Empire producers 20th Century Fox TV. Henson’s newly launched production company, TPH Entertainment, will also produce the Empire spinoff, which will follow what’s next for Cookie. Former vp television at Working Title Christine Conley will partner with Henson to run TPH.
Danny Strong — who co-created Empire with Lee Daniels — will be joined by the franchise’s Yolanda Lawrence and Stacy A. Littlejohn to co-write the series. All three will serve as co-showrunners. Sanaa Hamri is also attached to direct. Henson will also exec produce alongside Strong, Daniels, Littlejohn, Lawrence and Hamri. Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Samie Falvey will also return to exec produce the spinoff. The drama, like the flagship, hails from the now Disney-owned 20th TV. While official plot details remain under wraps, sources tell THR the spinoff will follow Cookie as she moves to L.A. and potentially feature some of her other family members.
Sources say the spinoff could also help Empire come to a proper conclusion after its series finale was unable to be produced before the industrywide novel coronavirus-related production shutdown. In announcing that the series finale would not be able to be filmed, Empire co-creators Daniels and Strong left the door open for a potential follow-up, with rumors of the Henson-led spinoff circulating in industry circles for months.
“I believe that normalizing stories around stigmatizing matters will make them more palatable for audiences to embrace,” Henson said. “Art can change perception and I plan to develop projects that can help further the conversation. I also aim to help cultivate and establish new young talent and their stories because they are our future and deserve a voice and a platform to be heard. I’m so excited to have 20th, led by the talented Carolyn Cassidy, support me in this new endeavor!”
Added Cassidy, president of 20th TV: “We were lucky to have a front row seat to Taraji’s meteoric rise as a fixture on television through Empire. Through that relationship everyone at the company grew to appreciate her passion for storytelling and her strong creative gut instinct. With Empire finished we look forward to helping her explore stories that need to be told through her talent and advocacy.”
The Henson-led drama arrives as Daniels has been open for years about wanting to do an Empire spinoff. Daniels previously co-created music drama Star, which existed in the same world as Empire but was not technically considered a spinoff despite the fact that both shows often crossed over. That series ran for three seasons before being canceled last year (much to Daniels’ chagrin). In 2017, there had been rumors of an Empire prequel series focused around a young version of Henson’s Cookie. That project was never ordered, though Henson was open about her interest in remaining a part of the Empire world for as long as possible.
Henson is repped by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham. Conley, who spent four years working in physical production before turning to development roles at Working Title (Gypsy, About a Boy), is repped by attorney Patti Felker.
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