*Taraji P. Henson and her “Empire” executive producers Ilene Chaiken and Sanaa Hamri made a TCA appearance on Monday and spoke at length about the direction of season 3 and the ongoing rumors regarding a spinoff.
“There certainly could be and we talk about it,” she told reporters of a possible spinoff series. “I think the show offers so many opportunities. There are potential spinoffs with Lucious and Cookie’s characters, sure.”
Granted, this comes exactly one year after “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels famously told Fox’s 2015 TCA press tour, “there will be a spinoff.” It’s been crickets on that front ever since. Instead, Daniels developed the forthcoming drama “Star,” which centers on an up-and-coming girl group.
Chaiken hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a crossover between “Empire” and “Star” at some point in the future. “We haven’t talked about it yet. I think the show needs to launch first,” Chaiken said of “Star,” which premieres midseason on Fox. “But certainly, there’s potential for it. The worlds, they’re both grounded worlds and stories about music, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”
As for season 3 plot details for “Empire,” Chaiken said Cookie will attempt to leave Lucious. Henson reminded folks that season 2 ended with her character telling him “I’m done.” But, when asked if Cookie could ever really be done with Lucious, she conceded that he is the father of Cookie’s children and joked, “Not unless she kills him.” Then she glared at Chaiken and Hamri.
Chaiken said season 3 would also delve into Cookie’s backstory, in depth. As previously reported, younger versions of Lucious and Cookie have been cast for multiple flashbacks this coming season.
Henson said Mariah Carey has already filmed her guest appearance on the show. “She was great,” Henson noted. “She’s fabulous; I wish I could wear a leotard like that. What she brings to the music industry she brought to the show. I’m glad Mariah spent time with little old us.”
Chaiken also spoke about the negative attention the show received for killing off not one but two LGBT characters, Naomi Campbell’s Camilla and Marisa Tomei’s Mimi. Both were killed off in the same April episode just as the Bury Your Gays trope was heating up due to notable character demises on shows such as “The 100” and “The Walking Dead.”
“The Kill Your Gays trope, I personally didn’t think that we were falling into it, but we did get drawn into it and I’m respectful of the way it’s been taken up in the public conversation,” said Chaiken. “Anytime we go near any issue like that, we try to be very mindful of it and responsible.”
The showrunner said the experience had informed the writer’s room going forward: “Apart from some specific entertainment industry trends that we fell into a little bit, what we try to be mindful of is that even though we’re telling stories, you can’t do that lightly. Killing is not your go-to move. It’s a huge move and we always challenge ourselves to find other places to go before we go there because that’s an endgame.”
However, the show “went there” again in the season two finale, which teased the death of either Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) or Anika (Grace Gealey) after a rooftop argument that seemed to end with one of the two ladies being thrown off a high-rise building.
“We answer the question,” said Chaiken. “The question that was posed gets answered in a fabulous and heart-stopping way.”
“Empire” season 3 premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.