‘Empire’s Lee Daniels: Race Relations in America Are in ‘an Ugly Place’


The second season of hit Fox television series Empire premieres later this month – and creator Lee Daniels says the show has come along at a particularly rocky time for race relations in the United States.

Daniels and the cast of Empire were on hand at Carnegie Hall Saturday night to show off the first episodes of the new season of the show, which follows African-American record label mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) as he navigates the pitfalls of his highly successful business alongside his family.

“Where we are in America with race relations is an ugly place,” Daniels said at the screening, according to the New York Post. “It’s time we tear the roof off this motherf***er! It’s time we see that we are all one.”

Empire has been a ratings monster for Fox; the show added viewers every week during its three-month first season, and the season finale drew an estimated 21.92 million viewers, including an eye-popping 8.8 rating in the all-important 18-49 demo.

“[To] put black people on TV is changing the face of television,” Daniels added at Carnegie Hall, praising Fox for sticking with the show. “They don’t necessarily agree with what we put on-screen, but there is a trust. They trust that we’re going to deliver for them.”

Daniels addressed race relations in the United States in a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan while promoting his film The Butler, when asked whether the country had become more racist under President Obama.

“I think that people are angry that he’s president, and I think that they’re showing their true colors,” Daniels told CNN at the time. “And I think that – I think that, when [Empire co-creator and Butler writer] Danny Strong wrote those words, ‘Any black man can be killed by any white man and get away with it,’ Trayvon Martin had not happened. I end the movie with hope, you know. He’s walking down and Obama’s giving that famous speech, you know? And then I come out of my edit room and Trayvon Martin has happened. So yeah, I think so – sadly, I think so.”

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in May, Daniels, who was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for 2009’s Precious, explained that a key part of Empire‘s success is that the show’s “[writer’s] room full of black people” is “writing words for black people.”

I hate white people writing for black people; it’s so offensive,” Daniels explained. “So we go out and look specifically for African-American voices. Yes, it’s all about reverse racism!”



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