Sunday, July 3, 2022

‘Empire’ EP Ilene Chaiken Talks Oprah, Lee Daniels’ Emmy F-Bomb

ilene chaiken
Ilene Chaiken

*There’s no question that people are patiently waiting for the September 23 premiere of season two of “Empire.”

And while guest stars such as Mariah Carey and Pitbull add to the hype, the show’s executive producer, Ilene Chaiken, is focused on making sure Lucious, Cookie and the rest of the Lyon family stay at the center of all the conversation.

Chatting with Deadline, Chaiken weighed in on the high-powered cameos coming to “Empire” as well as whether Oprah Winfrey is among the guest stars and what she thought about Lee Daniels‘ F-bomb reaction to the show’s Emmy snub.

Check out the highlights below:

DEADLINE: With some many guest stars coming to Empire this season, including Chris Rock, Marisa Tomei and more, what’s the deal with Oprah? Lee has said repeatedly he’s trying to get her to be on the show.

ILENE CHAIKEN: I’d be thrilled if Oprah was on the show. But Oprah is a very busy lady, and I have no idea whether it will ever happen. I know she loves the show and loves Lee, and if anybody could ever make it happen it would be Lee.

DEADLINE: So, it’s not happening?

CHAIKEN: As of right this moment, I’m not aware of any episodes that Oprah’s going to be on in Season 2.

DEADLINE: After the huge success of last year, are you worried about a sophomore curse?

CHAIKEN: I hope that the show does as well in Season 2 as it did in Season 1. I hope the audience still loves it, and we’re doing everything we can to keep it going like gangbusters being rigorous, tireless, and just digging really, really deep to tell great stories. The response is beyond my control, but I’m not stopping until I believe that we are every bit as delicious and good and irresistible as we were last year. I think we’re going to be better.

DEADLINE: Is part of that because of all the guest stars and additions to the show you have for Season 2?

CHAIKEN: We’re actually being really careful not to let it change the dynamic of the show — and frankly, not to have so many high-profile names that it feels like their show and not the Lyon show. Because the show is about the Lyon family. It’s about the characters that the audience loves. Although it’s really exciting to have some of these incredibly talented people be on the show, I believe that the audience is coming to see the characters in these stories. I think that the show will live or die based on those characters and those stories we’re telling them.

DEADLINE: Speaking of story, one of the big stories coming out of the Emmy nominations last month was how Empire got snubbed. While Taraji got an Outstanding Actress nom and the show received a costumes nom, there was no Best Drama, nothing for Terrence Howard, nothing for supporting actors. Did you find that shocking?

CHAIKEN: I never saw it that way. I mean, I would be thrilled just to get an Emmy nomination, and I’m thrilled that Taraji got one. That’s a very big deal unto itself. But if you look at the landscape of television, almost all the shows that are nominated are cable shows or streaming. Also, I know Better Call Saul did, but first-year shows don’t usually get that nomination.

DEADLINE: Lee Daniels seemed to think it was a big deal; he went online to rant about the snub…

CHAIKEN: He was just being Lee.

DEADLINE: He later walked it back with another post about loving the Emmys and that he was joking…

CHAIKEN: He posted it and, you know, you put something like that out to draw attention. Look, had we gotten a Best Drama Emmy nomination, I would be gleeful, but I don’t feel that we lost anything by not getting one. More important to me is the show is a huge success and that’s our real reward.

For the rest of Chaiken’s interview, click here.




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