Empire Preview: Ilene Chaiken Teases Family Dynamics, Warring Kingdoms

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Who's ready for Empire Season 2?

That's a pretty easy answer for most, as the Fox drama had one of the biggest freshman seasons in recent memory. Boosting a slew of charismatic and talented actors, along with a killer soundtrack that found its way to the top of the charts, there was really nothing like it on television this past season. 

After a lengthy hiatus, Empire Season 2 Episode 1 is back in a big way and let's just say it was well worth the wait!

We were lucky enough to sit in on a conference call with showrunner Ilene Chaiken, who shed some light on what to expect this season, among other things. 

The Lyons Empire Season 2 Cast Photo

Even though this is a show that has dealt with murder, double crossing and at times pure hatred, at its core, it's a show about family. There was discussion on the call about whether or not the fans might lose the love they have for the characters, since everyone seemingly has their own agenda. 

Chaiken doesn't believe that to be the case as "there's still all of the family dynamics, all of the love that was there between and among them in the first season. They're people who love and hate one another all at once. And you'll see as many moments in which they have one another's backs, as you'll see moments in which they're stabbing one another in the back."

On the topic of the relationships between the brothers, Chaiken talked about the need for people to change and noted that "there's a period of time in this season when various characters are estranged from other characters and the story of how they overcome their estrangements or how they battle through the estrangements is part of the joy of the show."

One pair in particular, Jamal and Hakeem, were huge fan favorites last year and any worry about them not collaborating this season was put to rest. Chaiken confirmed that "Jamal and Hakeem do perform together. They do in the first episode and they will again and repeatedly throughout the show."

She also teased that "in episode four, there's a very big set piece in which Jamal and Hakeem work together." 

During the course of the call, there were questions posed about the social issues that Empire deals with, including incarceration and homophobia. And the importance of reflecting the LGBT community and diversity of the real world, which Chaiken stated is "hugely important."

She remarked that "there still are LGBT stories and stories of other groups of people who have been previously marginalized and not represented in the popular culture. Hugely important to me, to the medium, important in the world at large."

On the topic of the widely successful Empire soundtrack, Chaiken did boost that "the music in season 2 is going to be all that and more." With some new additions to the musical team, she stated that "you'll hear more music and a somewhat broader array of musical styles in the genre of Empire."

With Jamal now the head of Empire, Chaiken touched on the differences between Jamal and his father, Lucious, stating that Jamal "has never been as hungry as his father was." As this relates to how Jamal will now run the business, she revealed that "Jamal is torn. He's torn between the dark and the light, if you will."

Before the call ended, there was one final question about what were things will pick up from the season finale. Set approximately three months after the events of the finale, she confirmed that the family "knows things now that they didn't know three months ago. For example, coming into this first episode, I don't think that anybody any longer thinks that Lucious betrayed Cookie, at least not in that way." 

She added for good measure, "In terms of framing the season, if season 1 was built on the premise of who will inherit the throne, season 2 is warring kingdoms."

Don't forget Empire airs September 23rd on FOX! And come back here right after for the full review. 

Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.


Empire Season 2 Episode 1 Quotes

Jamal: You need to go visit that man.
Cookie: Did ya'll bother to tell him that when I was rotting away?

Jamal: Bill Clinton is out there.
Cookie: Yeah, he needs to be if he wants his wife to get elected.