Google+

Daniels Builds a TV “Empire”

 

Lee Daniels

The “Empire” Interview

with Kam Williams

Daniels Builds a TV “Empire”

 

After directing and/or producing such successful feature films as The Butler, Monster’s Ball [for which Halle Berry won an Academy Award], and Precious [for which Mo’Nique won hers], two-time Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels [for Precious] has set his sights on TV for the first time. Here, he talks about directing the new nighttime soap opera Empire, co-starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

44170_gal

 

Kam Williams: Hi Lee, thanks for another opportunity to speak with you.

Lee Daniels: Great, Kam. How are you?

 

KW: All is well, thanks. What was the source of inspiration for Empire?

LD: My partner, Danny Strong, came to me with this idea of telling a story about my life, and merging that with music and the Hip-Hop world. He wrote The Butler and originally wanted to do Empire also as a movie.

 

KW: I had no idea it was semi-autobiographical. Why TV, as opposed to the big screen?

LD: What happened was we decided that’s enough with movies, let’s do it for television so that we could bring this to life for America on a weekly basis. It picks up, historically, where The Butler left off, and deals with race relations. It’s a little bit like my family, a little like some friends of mine with money, their world, and a little like some of my friends without money, their world. I think it’s the African-American experience.

 

KW: Which character are you? Lucious Lyon [played by Terrence Howard]?

LD: I’m Lucious… I’m Jamal… I’m all of the characters. My sister and my cousins are Cookie [played by Taraji P. Henson]. Cookie’s  little bit of all of them.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do film actors like Terrence and Taraji make the transition from the big screen to the small screen?

LD: That’s a very good question and a very complicated one, because with film we get the luxury of time. It works at a different pace. It’s nice and slow. As a film director and as film actors, you get used to a certain rhythm that’s slow. But with TV, it’s hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s a different pace. So, it’s about adjusting to the pace. It’s not meant for everybody.

 

KW: Has the frenetic pace frustrated you?

LD: No, I think it’s made me a better director, because I have to think fast. I no longer have the luxury of taking my time. Does that make any sense?

 

KW: Absolutely! Chalyn Toon asks: Did you consider other actors or did you always envision Taraji and Terrence for the lead roles?

LD: I always considered Taraji, but even though Terrence and I are very good friends and had worked together on The Butler and were thinking about doing The Marvin Gaye Story. But I didn’t know if he’d do TV. I was thinking of Wesley Snipes for the role, but word on the street was that Taraji wasn’t feeling it anymore. Then she told me, “I’ll do it, but only if Terrence does it.” I went, “girl, you ain’t even got the job yet.” And I was like, “Terrence ain’t going to do TV.” But then he said he would, and there you go.

 

KW: Chalyn also says: Most writers avoid dealing with homosexuality within the black community. What made you choose that path? Unlike your counterpart, Shonda Rhimes, who has depicted white males in a passionate relationship, perhaps to target a whiter audience, you’ve put two males of color in a gay relationship. Why did you choose to do so?

LD: I did it because I think it’s time to destroy a myth in the black community about gay men. When I was doing research for Precious, I went to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis here in New York City, because the movie dealt with AIDS. What I expected to see was gay men, but what I found were African-American women and children who’d been infected with HIV by black men on the down-low. They were on the d-l because their pastor says, because their minister says, because their neighbor says, and their homeboy says, “You can’t be gay.” Black men on the d-l are killing our women. I can’t hate the men on the d-l, I only hate that they’re on the d-l, because our people forced them to be. So, this is really dedicated to educating. This is the civil rights movement of our generation.

So, this is really dedicated to educating

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier: You are working on a Richard Pryor biopic. What does he mean to you?

LD: The more research I do, the more I uncover not only his brilliance, but how much of a pioneer he was at a time that was harder on African-Americans than it is right now, if that’s imaginable. His experience as a black American was very similar to mine. We both come from troubled backgrounds. He was very open about his sexuality, and what he did, and he spoke the truth. And he fought for the truth for everybody. And because he was so tormented, he was a drug addict, and so was I. Our similarities are strangely connected. So, he speaks to me. He was ahead of his time, and he didn’t even know that he was changing the world through humor. He was uniting African-American and white Americans through his humor. He didn’t know, and I hope to do him justice.

 

KW: Marcia Evans says: Lee, I’m major proud of all your work, and I’m digging Empire. Congratulations on your weight loss. You’re looking good. Vegan is working for you.

LD: [Belly laugh] I’m not really vegan. I’m vegan-ish. I have a piece of lamb every now and then.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Lee, and best of luck with Empire.

LD: Thank you, Kam. Talk to you soon.

 


 

Entertainment

Blake Lively Shines as Surfer Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters

  The Shallows Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams Blake Lively Shines as Surfer Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's … [Read More its Good for You...]

Books

Richards Rocks!

  Sandra L. Richards The “Rice & Rocks” Interview with Kam Williams Richards Rocks! The American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, Sandra L. Richards is the author of “Rice & Rocks.” She hopes that her debut picture book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity. Sandra completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seton Hall … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

ART EXHIBITION: 150 Years After The Civil War

  Cynthia Groya 150 Years After The Civil War: A Contemporary Perspective January 10 - March 6, 2016 Artist's Reception: Sunday, January 24, 3:00 - 5:00 pm Nassau Club 6 Mercer Street  Princeton, NJ 08540 The ideas reflected in Groya's paintings express a conversation about struggle for equal rights in our culture, in our time. The origin of this struggle can be traced to The Civil War in our country, which ended 150 years ago. The … [Read More its Good for You...]

Real Estate

Castles in America

  Castles in America by Amy Lignor   Robin Leach and his “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” taught us all long ago that we absolutely love to sit and view ridiculous luxury (usually owned by people who inherited all of it and didn’t work a day in their lives). See that? We had to complain about something as we were beguiled by the amount of money people would send to own or create the “best of the best.” Even though some things were referred to as the “gaudiest of … [Read More its Good for You...]

Lifestyle

Richards Rocks!

  Sandra L. Richards The “Rice & Rocks” Interview with Kam Williams Richards Rocks! The American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, Sandra L. Richards is the author of “Rice & Rocks.” She hopes that her debut picture book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity. Sandra completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seton Hall … [Read More it Good for You...]

Outdoors

230 LXF from Tidewater Packs A Punch in a Small Package

  230 LXF from Tidewater Packs A Punch in a Small Package By Ted Lund Are you looking for a family-friendly center console that’s got the luxury of a larger boat in a smaller package? Then look no further than the 230 LXF from Tidewater. The 23-foot, center console has the same features as the rest its large LXF brothers, including comfortable full upholstery, stainless steel cup holders. And a newly-designed console with glove box and footrest includes catch-all … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

There Are Superheroes Among Us

  There Are Superheroes Among Us by Amy Lignor   This story truly proves that a superhero does not require a cape, tights, or the ability to fly. In a world where all headlines seem to be centered around who shot who, who is being put upon, who’s “getting away with it” – all the way to who is getting divorced and who may or may not be kneeling at NFL games – negative stories seem to be the only ones covered anymore by the media. Does the American populace … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

2016 Brings About Layoffs to a Variety of Industries

  2016 Brings About Layoffs to a Variety of Industries by Amy Lignor   From tobacco to alcohol, with brand names that have incurred huge amounts of cash during their long-term years in business, layoffs have still been announced at a rapid pace in 2016. Even from those companies that have increased their profits.   Altria is one with a very large brand name. Its cornerstone brand, Marlboro, has brought about retail sales that have grown higher for the fourth … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Spotting the Wild Animal in the U.S. of A.

  Spotting the Wild Animal in the U.S. of A. by Amy Lignor   There are many camping spots, zoos, parks, and outdoor paradises across the globe; locales where wild animals roam and humans can get close to these amazing creatures. One of the most beautiful and talked about lies near Canterbury, Kent in the United Kingdom. Opened as a private zoo in 1957, this odd collection is known by many for being one of the most unorthodox. Breeding rare and endangered species, … [Read More its Good for You...]

Google+