After digging up Vernon's dead body for the sake of the Empire (naturally), Andre Lyon is hoping to get a few more dirty details off his chest. In Wednesday night's episode of "Empire" ("Be True"), Andre gets baptized, hoping to cleanse his soul of wrongdoings -- but first, he has to fess up to a few of his own.
Will opening up old wounds lead to even more family drama? Of course! The Lyon family puts the "fun" in dysfunctional. MTV News chatted with Trai Byers about Andre's self-realization, his spiritual journey this season, and why returning to Empire Entertainment may not be so sweet after all.
MTV News: Do you think it was the smartest move to put Vernon's body in the passenger's seat of the prosecuting attorney's car?
Trai Byers: [Laughs] That's a Lucious move. You'll know what side of him you're on. He can be very overt in some of his actions just to let you know that he sees you. It's his stamp of approval or disapproval. I don't know if it was the right move, as far as business is concerned, certainly not as far as Andre's concerned. But it's a Lucious move.
MTV: If I were Andre or Rhonda, I'd be feeling worried because Rhonda didn't even want to dig up the body in the first place.
Byers: I wonder if Andre even knows about that. Andre's sole purpose was to deliver the body in order to get back into the Empire. Now, what happened afterwards, I would say that Andre doesn't have the knowledge of the body being in the car until it makes the news -- and I'm sure it will.
MTV: Are Andre and Rhonda now part of Lucious and Thirsty's murdery Breakfast Club? Because they all have to keep this secret hidden.
Byers: Thirsty is definitely on Lucious' side, so he has Lucious' best interests at heart. Thirsty is coming to the table doing what he needs to do, getting things done regardless of whether it's the right way or the wrong way -- as long as it gets done. And Andre is very interested in trying to change his ways for the better, and he's interested in getting things done the right way, so they might clash on a few things.
MTV: How will Andre being back at Empire affect his overall outlook, because he's been so down this season? It feels like his first real win after the hostile takeover debacle.
Byers: This whole season, Andre has been maintaining his bipolar disorder with medication. He's taking a different route than last season. He's about to become a father. He's on a spiritual journey as far as his identity is concerned. The only thing that was missing for him was the fact that he was outside of Empire. Ultimately, he's happy to be back. There's a label within Empire called Gutter Life Records, and Andre has his hands busy with that. There's a party full of strippers and rappers, and it's a different type of life and representation than what Andre stands for. So that's going to lead to an interesting conflict for him.
MTV: Thinking back to last week's episode, when Andre tells Rhonda that God has been talking to him, some fans online interpreted that as a sign that Andre must be off his medication.
Byers: When he said, "God has been speaking to me," he meant it. He's on a very spiritual journey. Now, whether or not people can identify with that or are more prone to say he's nuts, that's up to them. But Andre means it.
MTV: And Rhonda's expression at that moment, when he said that, was so telling. She seemed so unsure of what to do or what to say.
Byers: I think that's the difference between Andre and Rhonda. She's not on the same journey as him, so it makes sense that she doesn't have the same connection to God. And in that moment, she's like the audience -- she's questioning whether Andre has been taking his medication. For her, this is something that's crazy. Not only are you taking this spiritual journey but now you're saying that God is talking to you. What does that mean? What does that voice sound like? Her mind immediately jumps to the worst conclusion.
MTV: Now that Andre is back at Empire, how will that affect his relationship with Cookie?
Byers: It's an evolving relationship. They've been estranged for a long time, and this season, we're seeing more of them together than we've ever seen them before. I think that they recognize one another as mother and son and that they're older -- he's a grown man whose got a family on the way, and prison has changed her. There's more work to be done, but I don't think his break from Lyon Dynasty broke their relationship at all. It was a mutual agreement for him to go and do what he needed to do.
MTV: We know Andre is being baptized in this week's episode, and that brings the entire Lyon family together. Will everyone be on their best behavior?
Byers: Lucious has a very interesting relationship with the church and the idea of being baptized, as you'll see. There are some things that are connected with him that lead him to feel the way that he feels about baptism and the church. What's so beautiful about this episode and this season is that we're making an effort to dig deeper with the characters, as far as explaining who they are and why they are this way. Some of the things that we're dealing with in the present are conjuring things from the past, so expect this episode to be heartfelt. Everybody is self-realizing. This episode, there's nothing like this on television.
MTV: This season, "Empire" has brought some very important social issues to the forefront. In the first episode, there was a Black Lives Matter moment at the Free Lucious concert. And in the most recent episode, there was a very poignant nod to Sandra Bland and #IfIDieInPoliceCustody. Some have criticized the show irresponsibly presenting these issues. What's your take?
Byers: This show, from day one, has been about awareness. We don't have the answer to bipolar disorder. We don't have the answer to fathers not caring about their sons because they're homosexual. We don't have the answer to the Black Lives Matter plight or being made a victim based on the color of your skin. Ultimately, it's about building an awareness. This week's episode, I guarantee that people are going to be talking about things, whether or not it's accurate. But that's not the point. You're talking. You're speaking about something that you might not be speaking about had you not seen it. And for that second or minute, it gives that subject matter importance and helps you, again, to self-realize your position and learn more about yourself. And if you don't like it, change the channel.