Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon in the TV series Empire in 2002 appeared in Mary J. Blige's video for " Be Without You ".
In 2011, Howard played Nelson Mandela in Winnie Mandela alongside Jennifer Hudson . The series was cancelled after one season.
During its first season, viewership in the United States increased with every episode - a rarity in television where most shows lose viewers after the pilot episode. The pilot attracted 9.9 million people, culminating with an audience of 17.6 million for the season finale. Since modern Nielsen tracking began in 1991, the record for the most consecutive weeks of increased viewership for a new show was held by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1999) with five episodes, a record Empire broke with twelve episodes.
Taraji P. Henson, who portrays Cookie Lyon, the mother of Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is only 13 years older than he is. Trai Byers (Andre Lyon) and Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) are the same age (born in 1983), although Andre is the older brother in the series.
Trai Byers and Kaitlin Doubleday (married on show) share the same birthday. Byers is one year older.
The show is Fox's highest rated debut show in over three years. The premiere brought in 9.8 million viewers and ratings increased with each episode.
Jussie Smollet is gay in real life as in the show.
The character of Elle Dallas is based on Whitney Houston, though Lee Daniels created the part for Courtney Love, of whom he was a great admirer. When Daniels contacted Love about playing the recurring character, she thought it was a joke.
Tim Mosley (Timbaland) produced all of the music for the show. All of the songs are original tracks.
Macy Gray was initially cast in a recurring role in Season 1 as Tasha, a woman having an affair with Hakeem but her storyline was written out.
John Slattery turned down the role of Billy Beretti.
Mo'Nique claims she was offered the role of Cookie Lyon, though Danny Strong and Lee Daniels deny this. Daniels admits to discussing the role with Mo'Nique, but that early discussions with the Fox Network prevented him from offering her the part, as she had gained a "difficult" reputation following her Oscar win.
Originally pitched as a movie
For her audition to play Elle Dallas, Courtney Love was asked to sing a Patti LaBelle song, which by all accounts, including Love's, was a disaster. Rather than cast another actress, Lee Daniels retooled the character as a megastar singer who lost her voice and asked Love to perform an Al Green song instead, so as to take advantage of Love's more rock-oriented vocals, rather than the R&B type-sound he'd originally envisioned. Love then won the part.
Empire is Fox's highest rated debut show in over three years. The premiere brought in 9.8 million viewers and ratings increased with each episode.
Quincy Brown was originally cast in the role of Hakeem, but turned it down after contract negotiations failed.
Bryshere Y. Gray's acting debut.
Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson are also in Four Brothers, although unrelated.
Though Grace Gealey plays Anika, Lucious's fiancée who is in his age group, in real life she's a year younger than both Trai Byers (André) and Jussie Smolett (Jamal).
During its first season viewership in the United States increased with every episode, a rarity in television where most shows lose viewers after the pilot episode. 9.9 million people watched the series premiere and viewership increased every week culminating with an audience of 17.6 million people for the season finale. Since modern Nielsen tracking began in 1991 the record for the most consecutive weeks of increased viewership for a new show was held by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1999) with five episodes, a record Empire easily broke with twelve.
Empire was Fox Networks highest rated debut show in over 3 years. The shows ratings have only gone up with each episode so far. The premiere brought in 9.8 million viewers, episode two had 10.3 million viewers and episode three had 10.9 million. The fourth (and most recent episode at this time) was seen by 11.3 million people!
The character Jamal is inspired by creator Lee Daniels' life. Andre is inspired by creator Danny Strong's mother, who also suffers from a mental illness.
The theme of diversity is key to the show and the people who made it, which expands also to the technical aspects of the series.