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Fox’s ‘Empire’ Plans Black Lives Matter Storylines in Upcoming Season

Taking a cue from several critically acclaimed television shows that have already broached the subject, the highly anticipated third season of Fox’s hip-hop soap opera Empire will address police violence and include themes related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Empire star Trai Byers’ character, Andre Lyon, will reportedly be racially profiled by police in a third-season episode.

“Andre’s story is the story about Andre becoming woke, connecting to his blackness in a way he hasn’t before,” Empire executive producer Ilene Chaiken told Entertainment Weekly.

The controversial scenes are expected in the second episode of the third season.

Byers, who has starred in every episode since the hip-hop drama first aired in 2015, says, “It’s a sensitive subject especially because I’m a black man. I have a black brother. My nephews just came to visit me and looking at them and thinking this is the world that they’re going to grow up in.”

“It’s important that we tell these stories. But it’s also important I think, for this story to be a part of the collective conversation,” he added.

Oscar-nominated director and Empire co-creator Lee Daniels said the police profiling storyline was inspired by his own son’s life experiences.

“I came into the writer’s room in the every beginning, and said these are the issues I want to talk about,” Daniels told EW. “This is what is going on in my head right now and this is what is affecting with my family. And we act out what was happening with my son through Andre.”

In the last year, a growing number of popular TV show have incorporated police violence against black people in their storylines.

In February, ABC’s Black-ish dedicated an episode to addressing the criminal justice system, police brutality and the difficult discussions black parents have with their children, who live in a country where “the system is rigged against us.”

In May, the season six finale of CBS’s Blue Bloods featured a scene with a black police officer drawing his gun on a Hispanic knife-wielding perp holding his hands up. The officer shot the suspect, after he came dangerously close — a scene that paralleled the police-involved shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown.

One month later, Emmy-winning Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black closed out its fourth season with a shocking death that paralleled and paid tribute to the real-life death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, whose 2014 passing fueled the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police brutality and racial profiling are issues Empire co-creator Danny Strong told EW the show’s creative team has been pushing since season 2.

“It always felt like we were jamming it in as opposed to making it an organic part of the plot,” Strong said. “Then the way it was broken in season 3 made it a really great part of the story. We don’t want to address social issues to just be preachy. We want it to be in the fabric of the story. I thought it was really smart. Now I think it’s going to be a really cool storyline, really resonant and about what’s happening right now.”

The third season of Empire premieres September 21 on Fox.

 

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson

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