Empire – Everything You Need To Know About The Hip-Hop Drama Taking Over TV

When series one of Empire aired earlier this year, it overtook The Big Bang Theory to become the most-watched scripted programme on American TV. Series two is coming to E4 with new characters and a bold twist, and will be more addictive than ever. Here’s all you need to know…

It’s A Family Drama

Empire takes its name from Empire Entertainment, a hip-hop label built by superstar rapper Lucious Lyon (played by Terrence Howard) using the drug money that landed his ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P Henson) a 17-year prison sentence. Freed at the start of series one, Cookie is constantly scheming to seize control of Empire, but Lucious, who’s also battling motor neurone disease, wants to pass control to one of their three sons. As series two begins, middle son Jamal (Jussie Smollett) sits on Empire’s throne. Don’t expect his reign to last.

They’re A Complicated Lot

Absent for most of their lives, Cookie has a strained relationship with her children, especially youngest son Hakeem (Bryshere Y Gray). Lucious’ relationship with Jamal is equally fractious because he isn’t comfortable with the fact his middle son is gay. Lucious may have dumped Cookie while she was behind bars, but the sexual tension remains.

It’s Really All About The Mum

Empire is packed with big characters, but the show’s focal point is Cookie, a woman who has the ghetto fabulous dress sense of Lil’ Kim and the delicacy of a sledgehammer. Earlier this year, actress Taraji P Henson told NME: “She does and says the things that most people are afraid to do and say, so she’s pretty much everybody’s alter ego.”

This Is A Soap On Steroids

Don’t expect the measured storytelling of Mad Men or brooding drama of Breaking BadEmpire thrives on thrilling plot twists, conniving conversations and explosive set-pieces. But though it’s fast and flashy, Empire never descends into mayhem and the scripts are slick. When a catty rival tells Cookie she isn’t “one of her jailbird mates”, she fires back with: “I wish you were. You probably would’ve made a good bitch for me – you look like you got a long tongue.”

US R&B King Timbaland Is In Charge Of The Music

Empire’s R&B-flavoured songs may not be cutting edge, but they at least sound vaguely contemporary. Series one’s soundtrack included offerings by Mary J Blige, Courtney Love – who also appeared on the show – and Jennifer Hudson.