WDRB goes behind the scenes with FOX's new hit show Empire - WDRB 41 Louisville News

WDRB goes behind the scenes with FOX's new hit show Empire

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"I would watch this show," Jussie Smollett told us. "I would watch the show even if I wasn't in it. I'm just so glad that I am," Smollett said. He plays Jamal Lyon. "I would watch this show," Jussie Smollett told us. "I would watch the show even if I wasn't in it. I'm just so glad that I am," Smollett said. He plays Jamal Lyon.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's FOX's breakout hit of the season, but what does it take to build an Empire?

We flew to Chicago to take you behind the scenes and if you think the show is already filled with twists and turns the actors tell us -- 'just wait'.

[QUIZ: WHICH EMPIRE CHARACTER ARE YOU MOST LIKE]

While the show is based in New York City, it's filmed in Chicago and an entire city block makes up the sound stages for the set.

Fans have been latching on to the show for its soap opera drama with an R&B beat. It centers around the music company Empire Enterprises and members of the Lyon family as they fight for control of it.

"I would watch this show," Jussie Smollett told us. "I would watch the show even if I wasn't in it. I'm just so glad that I am," Smollett said. He plays Jamal Lyon.

"If we get all the pieces of the puzzle together this can be amazing." Taraji Henson said in an interview. She plays Cookie Lyon.

In the Lyon family, there's Luciuos, Cookie, Andre, Jamal, and Hakeem. They're surrounded by a memorable cast of supporting characters.

While the likes of Taraji Henson and Terrence Howard are already Hollywood A-listers, the show introduces us to new talent -- including Jussie Smollett.

When asked whether acting or music was his first love, Smollett summed it up: "Being in Empire is my first love because I get to do it all."

"I guess I would say entertaining is my first love," Smollett clarified. "My Momma is like old school. You know like Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, Lena Horne type of situation where you're just supposed to know how to do everything."

Jamal gets into some heavy stuff on the show with his Dad, and Smollett said he's gotten a lot of feedback on that relationship.

"It's been a lot of love," Smollett said. "I get letters on the regular from people that are inspired by Jamal. I get that from gay, lesbian,bi, transgender heterosexual kids. It seems that Jamal is somehow finding its way into the hearts of everybody because I feel there's that universal story of not being accepted."

The show has been a huge success and some of the cast members haven't experienced the level of fame they're seeing now.

"I did not," Ta'Rhonda Jones said. "This is my first acting gig I didn't know what to expect," she said.

Ta Rhonda Jones plays Porsha -- Cookie's assistant on the show -- but Jones is an aspiring rapper in real life and was working at a nursing home in Chicago when she got the call that she had been cast.

"Terrence, Tiraji and everybody else. They're all so welcoming. [They] Didn't know me from a can of paint," Jones said.

Now she's sharing the screen with an Oscar nominated actress.

"She always tells you just do you, be you, don't worry, have fun," she said.

Tiraji Henson reunited with her frequent co-star on film, Terrence Howard, for the show. Her character -- Cookie Lyon -- is fierce, fabulous and tells it like it is.

"She's uncompromising, she's loyal," Henson explained. "She says 'So what, I did it. I did it for my family.' Gosh she's just a stand up kind of woman who doesn't take a lot of junk."

Cookie emerges after being locked up for 17 years -- her children have grown and her husband has moved on -- but she's a fighter and is demanding her share of the company.

Music, the business of Empire Enterprises, plays a huge part of this show, but the writers artfully weave it in to the story line

"I think the way the music is done in this show. It's not like we do a scene and lets break for the music, the music break, now back to the scene," Henson explained. "It's like its own character."

"You're watching the scene and all the sudden there's a song and it's like: 'Oh Ok, it's a song now.' It's different. It's a different way to see music on drama," Henson said.

As for the rest of the season?

"Nobody is safe in the Empire," Smollett said. "The rest of the season is ridiculous. It's just -- I keep on using the term but it's just stupid, it's just stupid. It's next level."

Henson's take? "The characters will be pushed to the limits. All of them," she said.

You can catch Empire Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. EST on WDRB.

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