Warning: Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Wednesday’s fall finale of Empire, do not proceed. You will 100 percent regret it!
Are Lucious Lyon’s days numbered?
The often-maligned Lyon patriarch may face his biggest test yet on Empire after his eldest son, Andre (Trai Byers), verbalized his long-gestating plan to kill his own father on Wednesday’s dramatic season three fall finale. Will Andre, who finally bid adieu to the ghost of his late wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), actually go through with it?
Andre wasn’t the only Lyon family member going through some stuff.
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) learned that her mayoral candidate beau, Angelo (Taye Diggs), wasn’t so squeaky clean after all. Nearly 30 years ago, Angelo was arrested for a DUI after driving his car into a lake and leaving a girl he was with to drown. Talk about a revelation. And Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who made a successful comeback onstage (with the aid of painkillers), was given an ultimatum by his family: Go to rehab or you’re done.
Following the fall finale, ET spoke with executive producer Sanaa Hamri to get the scoop on what’s next for Lucious after Andre’s fatal plan, Jamal’s trip to rehab, Angelo’s deep-seeded secret and much more!
ET: The big moment at the end of the episode was Andre’s declaration that he was going to kill Lucious. What provoked him to reach that point and is he willing to go that far to accomplish his goal?
Sanaa Hamri: Absolutely. Andre is a ruthless character who has a mental disorder, his bipolar disease. He suffered through his wife being murdered. He never had the attention that his other brothers had -- vis-a-vis his own father, Lucious. Hakeem is a talented rapper, Jamal is an R&B star and performer, and he did not get that talent. Yes, he’s talented as a businessman, but still he never had that kind of shine or ever was the apple of his father’s eye. He was the older brother and Lucius has hid so much from him, made him feel like a freak when in essence Lucious knew that he inherited genetically the bipolar disorder from his family’s side.
Andre’s the perfect candidate to follow through with such a statement. He’s been plotting and planning since the fifth episode of the third season. He’s extremely calculated and smart, so I fear for Lucious’ life because I know that Andre is going to follow through. He has no wife, no child -- he has his girlfriend -- but he literally has nothing to lose, and people with nothing to lose are the most dangerous. It makes sense that he wants to kill Lucious and he’s going to do whatever he can to achieve that goal.
Andre gave Shyne an intriguing proposition, basically blackmailing him into possibly teaming up to take down Lucious. Are they going to have a powerful partnership that may be difficult to topple?
I think so. He made that statement, so Shyne has three options. He could go to the feds, which he wouldn’t. He [could] go to Lucious, which he may not because he wants a stake in Empire. Or [he could] join forces with Andre. Shyne doesn’t know enough about Andre to understand what he’s getting himself into and that’s all I can say. He doesn’t have enough facts; he hasn’t known him long or lived with him long enough [to know] that Andre is a character [that handles things] by any means necessary. It’s going to be interesting seeing them working together.
Speaking of Shyne, how successful is he in weaseling his way to the table at Empire and how does his presence change the scope of the label?
It’s going to change tremendously now for Shyne because Andre just told him the new plan, so he’s definitely going to [be more] powerful than he could have ever been if he stuck with Lucious. Shyne is going to have to determine which way he’s going to go, but he was very clear with Lucious when he said he wanted a stake in Empire -- and Lucious goes, “What kind of steak -- a rib-eye?” Shyne’s a straight shooter, he says what he wants, he’s not confusing, he’s a thug from the streets and that means his word is bond. Now we have to see how much he can get out of the Andre situation.
Is Andre’s arc a matter of the student surpassing the teacher? Is he becoming Lucious 2.0?
Absolutely. It’s one of those things that we say: Our children are us in the future, so it’s like a software update and that’s what’s so scary about the whole thing. He’s Lucious 2.0. He’s learned from his own father, so he’s even more along the line of having the qualities that Lucious has to do what he’s got to do. The difference between him and Lucious is he is crazy. Lucious, at times, does stuff to keep his family safe. He does things because ultimately, deep inside, he has a twisted sense of tradition. Andre has no tradition. He’s rogue now and lawless and knows the law, so he’s going to be able to manipulate the law to his advantage.
Has the door closed on the Rhonda chapter of Andre’s life?
We said goodbye to Rhonda. Andre has now found a support system in Nessa and he knows that he’s now even more fixated and understands what his role is and what he’s about to do. Now he no longer needs the trappings of Rhonda coming back churning all this emotion for him. He’s letting go so he can move on and ultimately, do what he needs to do: kill his father. He also has to avenge his Rhonda’s death.
Which is the perfect segue to my next question! Is the payoff coming for Andre to fulfill ghost Rhonda’s wish that he avenge her death?
Andre promised her that he’s going to destroy whoever killed [the baby], and obviously he’s going to try to find out who killed Rhonda as well. That’s part of the deal they made on that beach. It all goes hand in hand with Lucious. When he lost Rhonda in the beginning of the third season, he was lost within himself, but now he has the drive and strategy and plan in mind in which his own bipolar manic mind can fixate on so that he’s obsessing over his ultimate goals. That’s what makes him a dangerous character.
Jamal had a successful “comeback” performance, but all with the aid of his painkillers, which prompted Cookie to ship him off to rehab. What’s next for him now? What is Jamal in rehab like?
Jamal goes to rehab and we’re going to see how it works for him. We will experience him in rehab and see where his mind is at. It’s part of his demons, he’s going to have to deal with it. It’s not the easiest thing to deal with, especially when one is addicted to painkillers -- it’s not only a physical addiction, it’s also psychological. Can he perform again? He was able to perform high but what’s his music going to be like when he’s not high, and will he be able to write? Is he going to be ready? We’re going to go through that process with him, which is something that is pertinent in the music industry because a lot of artists not only have had these situations but have passed away from this type of addiction as well. We’re very passionate about this storyline.
How are you making sure that that part of the storyline remains realistic?
When Cookie runs in and Jamal is vomiting and can’t move, that’s the truth. Nobody sees that side of it. You see somebody in their lavish apartment and they can barely walk out the door. The worst part is, she can’t call 911 because it would be a media frenzy so you can see how artists, especially famous people, are trapped in that kind of lifestyle. We’re going to go through all of that. Who are the enablers that Jamal has to shake off? Who does he need to be around more? We’re realizing that Lucious is a trigger for PTSD for him, so is Lucious going to be a trigger for wanting to get high? We’re going to go through all the peaks and valleys with him.
We learn that Angelo has skeletons in his closet -- that he had a DUI and may have left a girl to drown after driving his car into a lake. How does this new information affect Cookie’s perception of Angelo?
Cookie is, no pun intended, a tough cookie. She’s been through a lot worse than that. The key element for her will be, is he a coward for having done that, or is there more to the story? I feel like she’s smart enough to get the real story. Cookie just wants facts and she’s going to have to get that from Angelo for her to be able to understand what happened. She doesn’t have all the facts right now -- this is just Lucious divulging stuff. So we’re going to see Cookie get to the bottom of all these things. As long as Angelo is truthful, she’s going to stick with him.
Empire returns March 22 on Fox.