Empire EP Ilene Chaiken breaks down that WTF season finale, Demi Moore's mysterious debut
Spoiler alert: This story is about Wednesday’s season 3 finale of Empire. Proceed with caution.
Well, that was certainly an eventful hour of Empire! The Fox hit closed out its third season with a slew of drama, most notably the final reveal that Lucious (Terrence Howard) survived the bomb planted in his car, but has amnesia…and a super weird, boundary-pushing nurse played by Demi Moore. Executive producer Ilene Chaiken talked to EW about all the cray cray that ensued — and what it means for season 4.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s get right into it: Lucious has amnesia at the end of the finale. Will that last all of next season?
ILENE CHAIKEN: Well, it’s really his story and our big story in season 4. It doesn’t mean that he’s going to spend the whole season not knowing. We’re breaking the story now. To some extent, Lucious is Lucious and always will be, but we get to all those questions: Where did it come from? Is it who he is or is it the circumstances of his life? What is character? Also, what does he really know and how much is his usual opportunistic manipulation of circumstances? But it will absolutely be our story going into season 4 or a big part of it.
Demi’s character seems a little off. She sort of seems in love with him. What can you say about her?
I don’t want to say too much because that obviously is story, but I’ll talk about the conversations we’ve had and the way she understands her character. She’s a rehabilitation specialist. She’s a rehab nurse and she’s a trained psychologist. She’s worked with a lot of patients who have been through similar traumatic events to what Lucious went through and she’s had great success. She takes on one patient at a time and devotes herself to them. So she’s devoted to Lucious. When we meet her in the finale, he’s never laid eyes on her. He’s presumably heard her voice. So when he comes out of his coma, who is she to him and who is she going to become to him and who is she going to become to her?
Obviously, Cookie and Lucious were in a good place before the explosion. It sounds like the nurse will create a love triangle.
She’ll create a triangle. I don’t want to call it a love triangle because we’ve done that so many times. I want to be really clear we’re not repeating ourselves. This is a whole new relationship and a whole new scenario for the Lyons.
Dre obviously set up Lucious to be killed but it ended with him getting the power at Empire and attempting to save his parents. What does this mean for him?
That’s part of what we’re setting up. Certainly, he’s going to be living with guilt because he was largely responsible for what happened to his father. How severe the damage is to Lucious might determine both the extent of his guilt and also his paranoia. The question is: Who knows other than Shine? Also, how guilty is Andre if he tried to call it off at the last minute? And how is that intense guilt going to affect his mental health?
What can you say about Jamal and this new guy, who is a member of the Dubois family? What is the new guy’s relationship to Angelo?
He’s Angelo’s cousin. He’s the son of Diana Dubois’ brother.
It seems like the Dubois family wants to tear apart the Lyon family from within.
I think that would be fair to say. The Dubois already have been formidable adversaries. Going into season 4, they are a significant adversary to the Lyons as we begin our season. We’re going full Montagues vs. Capulets. Or maybe it’s Hatfields and McCoys.
So will Phylicia Rashad and Taye Diggs will return next year?
Yes. We’ve loved them and we do think Phylicia Rashad has just been the best nemesis ever.
We don’t know what Hakeem agreed to do for the Dubois family — will we find out that out soon?
It will play out over the course of the beginning of our season as we figure it out and also as Hakeem figures out what the hell he got himself into. Hakeem not being the strategist his father or his brother is will probably be just a little out of his depth.
What about Cookie? It seemed like she finally got her happy ending.
Well, it was genuine. She got where she clearly has always wanted to go — to a perfect place and perfect moment, only to have it blown up quite literally. This thing that happens in the last moments of the finale, the biggest question it raises is: Will Lucious and Cookie be able to reclaim that perfect moment? Or is that just the last of it?
Will Charlotte (Eva Longoria) and Giuliana (Nia Long) return? They seem like they have some axes to grind.
Frankly, it’s uncertain. But we’ve imagined a lot of scenarios in which we would and we’d love to. We’d love to see both of those characters and they both, as you said, have axes to grind and could come back at any moment to grind them.
What about Anika? She just can’t catch a break. It’s three months later — is she in jail?
Anika is still in jail when we come back in season 4. What will happen to her after that I won’t go into other than to say Anika has fought so long and hard to somehow be a part of the Lyon family. She wants to be a Lyon. She looks at her daughter as her connection to the Lyon family. But she has to be insane to want to continue having anything to do with this family. It hasn’t gone well for her. That’s where we start with Anika: Is she finally ready and can you ever get away from the Lyon family? Or are they like the mafia where once you’re in, you’re in for life?
And Leah seems like she really showed her true colors. Will she continue to be manipulative and malicious next season?
She’s finally revealed herself and you get a lot of information of where Lucious comes from if you look at Leah. She didn’t just kill Tariq — she killed Tariq and had a plan. So is Lucious going to be able to tolerate having her around much longer? And can he even cut her loose if he wants to?
Empire returns to Fox in the fall.