Possible ‘Empire’ spinoff in development

(Courtesy FOX TV)

The former FOX Network juggernaut Empire, which was filmed at Chicago’s Cinespace Studios, have ended prematurely last spring due to the rampant novel coronavirus COVID-19, but you clearly can’t keep a Lyons down.

There is now talk of a spinoff series starring Taraji P. Henson as matriarch Cookie Lyons. According to TheWrap, Henson has a Cookie-led spinoff in the works at the broadcast network.

All we know for now is the project, which is backed by Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. Should it be ordered to pilot, Henson is set to star in and executive produce the potential series, which hails from Empire studio 20th Century Fox Television.

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Strong, Stacy Littlejohn and Yolonda Lawrence are writing the script with Sanaa Hamri set to direct. Executive producers include Daniels, Strong, Littlejohn, Lawrence, Hamri, and Henson, along with Brian Grazer and Samie Falvey for Imagine Entertainment.

The Hidden Figures star appeared alongside Terrence Howard on all six seasons, which aired its pandemic-forced series finale April 21. That episode was the 18th out of a planned 20 for the drama’s sixth and final season, but production shutdowns made it impossible to complete the final two episodes in time.

When the premature ending was announced, Strong, Daniels and “Empire” showrunner Brett Mahoney said they still want to shoot a proper final bow for Cookie, Lucious (Howard), Andre (Trai Byers) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) some day.

Henson noted in a statement, “I believe that normalizing stories around stigmatizing matters will make them more palatable for audiences to embrace. Art can change perception and I plan to develop projects that can help further the conversation. I also aim to help cultivate and establish new young talent and their stories because they are our future and deserve a voice and a platform to be heard. I’m so excited to have 20th, led by the talented Carolyn Cassidy, support me in this new endeavor!”

The Empire spinoff is potentially Henson’s first project under a new two-year first-look TV deal the actress has signed with 20th Century Fox Television through her new production company TPH Entertainment, which will be run by her partner Christine Conley.

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“We were lucky to have a front row seat to Taraji’s meteoric rise as a fixture on television through Empire,” Carolyn Cassidy, president of 20th Century Fox TV, said in a statement Thursday, when the deal was announced. “Through that relationship everyone at the company grew to appreciate her passion for storytelling and her strong creative gut instinct. With Empire finished we look forward to helping her explore stories that need to be told through her talent and advocacy.”