9 Things You Didn't Know About 'Empire'
With the season finale of "Empire" upon us, we here at MTV News decided it was time to take a closer look at the TV phenomenon that's captured our hearts -- and just about everyone else's because in case you didn't know, over 15 million people tune into the Lyon family drama every week. In just 12 much-too-damn-short episodes, "Empire" has influenced everything in the pop culture zeitgeist, from music to TV to fashion, and it's inspired hundreds of hilarious memes along the way.
In honor of tonight's explosive two-hour season finale, here are nine things you didn't know about "Empire" -- from wardrobe secrets to how certain scenes really came together behind the scenes.
Lucious' favorite color is purple.
... Which explains why Cookie is often seen wearing purple. "One reason she wears a lot of purple is because it's Lucious' favorite color," the show's costume designer Rita McGhee told MTV News. "So she's doing what she can to win him back."
Trai Byers convinced Danny Strong to let Andre pull the trigger.
One of the most powerful scenes this season featured Andre suffering a mental break in the studio. He held a gun up to his head -- and pulled the trigger. That harrowing moment was a collaboration between Byers and co-creator Danny Strong.
"I asked Danny [Strong] -- because they don’t let you do this kind of stuff on primetime television -- if Andre could pull the trigger," Byers told MTV News. "I needed to pull that trigger; we needed to show that Andre was way past his limits. And given what was happening with his disorder and his family and feeling left out, he needed to not be a coward about this and pull that trigger. And Danny went with it with me, and thank god Fox allowed it, because it really helped set up Andre’s breakdown."
Hakeem has the most expensive wardrobe.
"Yazz is a rapper, so when I direct him, I already have his notes on how he is as a performer," McGhee told us. "I get clothes that he would wear. Hakeem is young, he's money and he's totally turnt up. He's hip-hop. And when he performs, the budget definitely goes up."
"You're So Beautiful" was inspired by Gabourey Sidibe.
"When we sat down, [music producer] Jim Beanz and I had Gabby on the brain," Jussie Smollett told MTV News. "I was texting her back and forth, and she said something funny. [Jim and I] were just talking about how dope she is and how she's confident and sexy and beautiful, but every once in a while, you need to hear the words you're so beautiful." And so, a musical masterpiece was born!
Everyone in the cast can sing their butts off.
The entire cast of "Empire" can sing. "Not a lot of people know this, but Gabby [Sidibe] can sing her butt off," Smollett said. "She can sing!" Can someone please pass Sidibe the mic next season?! Byers, Grace Gealey [Anika], Kaitlin Doubleday [Rhonda] and Raven-Symone [Olivia] are all also trained vocalists.
Taraji has final say on Cookie's wardrobe.
"Taraji is very good at knowing what she wants and knowing what looks good on her body. She's a big influence, and we work together to choose what's best for the scene and her character," McGhee said. "Each outfit, I put in a selection of jewelry, and she'll pick out what she likes. Cookie is a woman who's vulnerable, but she's also a strong woman, alpha female. And before she went to jail, she was into clothes and being beautiful and sexy. So she's still a combination of vintage 90s and bold, sleek and sexy."
Jamal's characterization is inspired be Lee Daniel's own life.
"Lee Daniels’ life is all up in 'Empire,'" Smollett told us. "This show is Lee’s life set in a higher-stakes environment. I met Lee’s sister, and she is Cookie Lyons. Straight up! He grew up just like Lucious in Philadelphia, and the things that Lee has seen and been through are all present in the series. Lee has talked to me about it, and we’ve gotten so close. He started working with me when I was still auditioning. He had me come in seven different times. It was a tough audition process, but there has never been a project that I’ve done that has been more rewarding. My goal is to show the silent strength that Jamal has in himself — the same strength I see in Lee.
Cookie's love of animal prints is more symbolic than you think.
"One of the reasons she loves the animal print is because it's strong and confident, but it's also symbolic of someone who sits in the back and waits for their opportunity to pounce -- that's what a cheetah, a leopard and a lion do. They pounce!" McGhee told us. "They're also strong and confident and beautiful. Cookie's clothes are her armor, her guard."
Jamal is more like his father than he wants to admit.
"Jamal has pieces of his dad, as do all of Lucious' sons, but where you most see Lucious' influence on Jamal is with his clothing," said McGhee. "Lucious wears ascots, ties and pocket squares, and Jamal loves scarves. It's a piece of his dad's style that he's now adapted for himself. He admired his father when he was a little boy, so even though he may not have the best relationship with him now, this is how Jamal does an ascot to be like his father."