Lee Daniels was in New York last night as one of the TIME 100 honourees. Empire has been the biggest new show of the year, and it’s more than just ratings. It’s representation. On so many levels. Empire started airing during award season; I couldn’t get to it until after the Oscars, and then I had a book debate to study for and other deadlines so I didn’t start until end of March. Duana still hasn’t started yet because she’s backlogged on her own projects too. But I’ve been texting her while I go through the episodes. One of my favourite scenes so far (I’m still not done the first season) is when Lucious is on Hakeem’s ass about working harder in the studio and Hakeem is like, yeah, but dad, I have VIP backstage passes to this concert tonight and I really want to go. Lucious asks to see the tickets, calls his assistant Becky into the office, hands them over to her, and brushes his hands at Hakeem – you ready to get down to business now?

Tiger Mom.

You relate to Empire in so many different ways.

Apparently over in France, they’ll be relating to Empire on the soap opera level. Daniels was in Paris a few days ago to promote the show and talked about his vision for it during the Q&A:

“When I played Precious in Harlem with 300 black people, it played as a comedy. And then I played it at Sundance for white people and it played as a piece of art. So for me, I’m always laughing. It goes back to being bullied as a child. I have to find the humor… Yes, I want you to feel what I’m feeling. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, I want you to laugh because we laugh telling the story. We have a fun time telling serious matters. If you cry then there is no hope.”

He then surprised the audience by bringing Taraji P Henson on stage. Cookie, as we all know, became the big draw. Season 2 apparently will focus more on Cookie’s backstory, why she went to prison. As for how many episodes…

They want 22 because Hollywood’s favourite word is “more”. But Daniels thinks that will compromise the quality:

“They (Fox) want to do 22 episodes which I think is a nightmare. And I know you all want to see 22 episodes, but that will kill her,” Daniels said pointing to Henson (she concurred). “It’s a lot of work to make that good stuff. I know it’s going to be more than 12 and it won’t be 22.” 

22, to me, is too many. You just run out of sh-t to do, you know?
Click here to read more about Lee Daniels in Paris for Empire.