Empire is an American musical drama television series which debuted on Fox on January 7, 2015. Although filmed in Chicago, the show is based in New York and it centers on a hip hop music and entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders’ family as they fight for control of the company. The show was created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls), and stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a former drug dealer now turned hip hop mogul and CEO of Empire Entertainment, learns he has ALS. His life begins to cave in around him after his past sins come back to haunt him following his diagnosis. Lucious, looking to groom one of his three sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) to take over the family business, pits them against each other. Empire also stars Taraji P. Henson as Lucious’ ex-wife Cookie Lyon, the mother of his three sons who is released from prison after serving a 17-year sentence.
- Terrence Howard (Law & Order: LA) as Lucious Lyon, a former drug dealer turned hip hop mogul and the founder and long-time CEO of Empire Entertainment, whose life begins to cave in around him after his past sins come back to haunt him when diagnosed with ALS.
- Taraji P. Henson (Boston Legal, Person of Interest) as Loretha “Cookie” Lyon, Lucious’ outspoken ex-wife and mother of his three sons, who served a 17-year stretch in prison for drug dealing. She sees herself as the sacrificial lamb for Empire Entertainment, which she built with Lucious, but then took the fall for when she was arrested for running the drugs that financed Lucious’ early career. Upon her return from prison she is determined to bring the Lyon family back together and reclaim her share of Empire Entertainment. In season 2 Cookie leaves Empire and starts her own record label, Lyon Dynasty.
- Jussie Smollett (On Our Own) as Jamal Lyon, the middle son of the Lyon family, a talented, gay singer-songwriter who despises the corporate aspect of the music industry. He is estranged from his homophobic father who considers him the “black sheep” of the family. Jamal is Cookie’s favorite and has a strong relationship with his brother Hakeem.
- Trai Byers (All My CHildren, 90210) as Andre Lyon, the eldest son of the Lyon family and CFO of Empire Entertainment. He is Wharton educated, power hungry and suffers from bipolar disorder. He is married to his college sweetheart, Rhonda. He plans to run Empire, but is in a battle for the head chair with his younger brothers.
- Bryshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon, the fame-obsessed youngest son and Lucious’ favorite child, who is a hip hop star on the rise. Hakeem starts to find feelings for his mother, Cookie, and has a great relationship with Jamal. He has relationships with Tiana, Camilla, Anika, Valentina, Laura and Abbie.
- Grace Gealey as Anika Calhoun. She starts out as ambitious head of Empire Entertainment A&R and becomes engaged to Lucious, but they separate again. Cookie and Anika share an extreme dislike for one another, with Cookie referring to Anika as the derisive nickname “Boo Boo Kitty”.
- Malik Yoba (New York Undercover, Revolution) as Vernon Turner, Lucious’s longtime friend and business partner, and chairman of Empire Entertainment. (Season 1)
- Kaitlin Doubleday (Cavemen, Hung) as Rhonda Lyon, Andre’s wife.
- Ta’Rhonda Jones as Porsha Taylor (season 2, recurring: season 1), Cookie’s assistant
- Gabourey Sidibe (American Horror Story, The Big C) as Becky Williams (season 2, recurring: season 1), executive assistant to Lucious at Empire Entertainment.
- Serayah McNeill as Tiana Brown (season 2, recurring: season 1), an artist at Empire Entertainment who becomes Hakeem’s girlfriend for some time. In season 2 she leaves Empire for Lyon Dynasty.