Empire’s’ Co-Creator Danny Strong Says Show Is Loosely Based on Jay Z’s Life

Danny Strong, one of the co-creators of Fox’s Empire, appeared on Sway in the Morning to discuss the hit television show. While explaining the inspiration for the show’s storyline, Strong shared that Empire is actually loosely based on the life of rap mogul and business magnate, Jay Z.

Empire‘s lead character Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, has built a musical dynasty for himself on the success of his drug-dealing past. Sway asked Danny if he’s received backlash from viewers regarding his decision to give the lead character the stereotypical past of a Black man. ”The Jay-Z story, which very much inspired Lucious Lyon, certain elements of Lucious Lyon, was that story,” replied Strong. He then went on to explain why he and Daniels decided to give Howard’s character the drug-related background.

“For me, I don’t think in terms of ‘we have to be careful of certain things because of certain negative stereotypes’,” said Strong. “I view it as, the entire cast is African American, we’re gonna have all different types of characters, and we’re just gonna tell good stories. We’re not gonna sit here and play defense or think that our show is a representation of Black culture in it’s entirety. It’s not. It’s just this story. And for me, the story of people who have some sort of criminal past or gangster past is not individual to Black culture, it’s individual to so many cultures within American society. To me it’s an American dream story. This is metaphorical to so many people in America. How they rise up to power is through these means. Our goal is to tell a great story and to do the best that we can.”

Strong touched on the rumors that Wesley Snipes and Mo’Nique were originally going to play the show’s lead characters, whose idea it was to cast Courtney Love and much more.


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