Empire’ visits PaleyFest

By Ivan Mateo

Day one of PaleyFest Los Angeles 2016 marked the first appearance by the cast and creators of Fox’s wildly popular and successful hit show, “Empire.”

PaleyFest LA provided television fans with an inside look into their favorite series. This year’s festival was held in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

The crew behind “Empire” present included Lee Daniels (co-creator/showrunner), Ilene Chaiken (showrunner/producer), Brian Grazer (producer) and Sanaa Hamri (producer).

Members of the Lyon family in attendance included Lucious (Terrence Howard), Hakeem (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Andre (Trai Byers) and more.. To round out the cast, fan favorites such as Becky Williams (Gabourey Sidibe) was also present.

At the beginning of the night, everyone watched an exclusive sneak peek at the newest episode of “Empire” set to air at the end of March. The audience was treated with juicy details about cliffhanger A, B and C, which previously aired in December. Sorry, no spoilers here. Usually, a television viewer is watching Hulu or Netflix in the privacy of their respective homes, but to watch “Empire” with 1,000 to 2,000 other people including Howard, Sidibe, and Daniels proved to be surreal.

The host/moderator, Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier acted as the moderator and asked a wide variety of questions ranging from the rise in popularity of the show, what is it like filming the show and which guest stars they want to bring on the show. Everyone on the panel reiterated how close of a family they are to one another. For example, sometimes a dramatic sequence is shot, but after shooting, they’ll hug it out. Beyonce and Adele were popular answers to be potential guest stars.

Daniels talked about the issues of racism and the lack of diversity at the Oscar’s to which he simply said, “I don’t have time to deal with racism” and “I make my own way, and I don’t want to hear woe is me. They ain’t treat me right. You know one thing, get off your [butts] and do it!”

There were even comedic moments. While Daniels talked about how he still calls the three Lyons by their “Empire” names of Hakeem, Jamal and Andre, to which Sidibe casually mentioned “He still calls me Precious” (referring to her starring role where she worked with Daniels, who was director) which garnered laughter all around.

After the panel, fans were given the chance to ask questions. A majority of the fans asked questions along the lines of what advice could you give to an aspiring actor, actress, director or writer. One of the fans even asked if there were any openings for an office production assistant in Season 4. (hey, why not try, right?) Howard smoothly responded, “We’re just doing Season 3 right now. Season 4, we got you!”

Daniels provided a harsh but real answer to a 12-year-old aspiring actor when he said, “See that exit door. Run out that backdoor if you don’t want to eat, breathe, sleep, dream, be your whole existence because there’s nothing but rejection, and so you have to make it your life.”

Kevin Frazier tried to bring it back from the tense but real mood by saying, “Don’t be discouraged now. Stay in it!” Brian Grazer added, “You are what you believe.”

Smollet ended the panel when he said, “To me, the three of us are the perfect example of the fact that everyone’s journey is different. I’ve been in the industry since I was 4 years old. Trae studied at Yale School of Drama and is a trained actor. This is Yazz’s very first job. And we are on this stage together.”

“Empire” returns to Fox on March 30.

Courtesy of The Paley Center

‘Empire’ cast members

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