One of the surprise breakout hits of the television season has been Empire. The TV show, created by filmmaker Lee Daniels, revolves around the Lyon family: their nefarious dad Lucious, three sons (Andre, Jamal and Hakeem) and the boys’ mother, Cookie Lyon who has just been released from prison after taking the fall for the dad’s crime.
The show was praised by critics and fans alike not just for the way that it kept viewers on the edge of their seats, watching its power struggles, secrets and lies play out but also by the way that it embraced diversity.
The cast is predominantly African-American and one of its main characters – Jamal – also begins the show as a closeted gay man who struggles with the fact that his dad doesn’t accept his sexuality.
But Jamal isn’t the only one whose queerness is explored on the show as we also saw Tiana, the girlfriend of Hakeem, with her female love interest, India.
Season two of Empire beings back Tiana but it also introduces another queer woman, a billionaire venture capitalist played by (Oscar-winning actress) Marisa Tomei. She has signed up for a multi-episode arc and Empire fans are eager to see how her character will get involved in the Lyon family drama and if she’ll be romantically involved with anyone too.
Speaking to After Ellen, Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken says that
…she plays a really important role in the melodrama of Season 2. She’s a fabulous character. We’ve having loads of fun with her. But she also plays an important role in the soap, in the treachery, in the Cookie vs. Lucious and in the fate of Empire.”
And when quizzed on whether Tomei’s character is single, Chaiken gave a cryptic answer of “that remains to be seen”, though the show will make it clear that she’s gay as we learn her sexuality definitively in the season premiere. Chaiken wouldn’t say how that would be shown, but she did say that it’s “not subtle”.
Many Empire fans may also be hoping Tomei’s character gets together with Cookie Lyon. Chaiken says that the billionaire is a “womanizer” and that “she and Lucious might turn out to have similar taste in women”.
Then, when asked by AE on whether or not Cookie is interested in women, she notes that both she and Taraji P. Henson (who plays Cookie) maintain that although Lucious was the only man Cookie had ever been with, that didn’t mean that she was the only person she’d ever been with – after all, she had been in a women’s prison for 17 years.
As for Chaiken’s other show, The L Word, she also spoke to the publication about a possible reboot.
She says she would “love to [reboot the show], but we really need a compelling reason to do it” and that if it did come back “it would feature some of the original cast and a lot of new characters”.
Unfortunately, if it got greenlit, Chaiken says she wouldn’t be able to do it “right now” but that doesn’t rule it out completely forever.
So keep your fingers crossed for a return of the iconic talking, laughing, loving, breathing, and fighting group of queer women at some point in the future.