Empire boss on the newest Lyon son and whether we just found out who's in the casket
In comes one Lyon son, out goes another?
Just as Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) was officially revealed to the world as the illegitimate son of Lucious (Terrence Howard), the Empire midseason finale concluded by flashing forward to Andre (Trai Byers) appearing to possibly be on his deathbed. This raises the question of whether the now-second-oldest Lyon son is the person in the mysterious coffin that has been teased throughout the season.
Andre’s fate and the Lyon family learning of Kingsley’s connection to them were just two parts of the busy episode, which also featured relationship drama all around, data mining, and the latest departure from Empire.
To get insight on the midseason finale and what’s to come in the back half of season 5, EW talked to Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, does this fall under the rule of threes? Like, can there only be three Lyon sons at once, and you have to lose one if you gain one?
BRETT MAHONEY: [Laughs] No, I think there could be four. There’s allowed to be more than three at a time.
Can we definitively say that Andre is the one in the casket, or is that a little too easy?
We cannot definitively say that Andre is in the casket. But we can say that Andre is certainly facing dire circumstances as we move forward into the second half of the season.
Will we have to wait until the season finale to find out who died and what happened in all these flash-forwards?
We do not have any more flash-forwards in the second half of the season. So we will be catching up to all of the flash-forwards that you saw in the first half, and you will ultimately learn who is in the coffin.
The last time we talked, I feel like you wouldn’t 100 percent say that Kingsley is Lucious’ son, instead saying that is what Kingsley believes to be the truth. So where are we now? Can we officially anoint him a Lyon?
I think you can officially say that he is Lucious’ son. But then even he has the question, and this is something the rest of the family will be dealing with in the latter of the season, is nature vs. nurture. The fact that Lucious is his father, does that make him a Lyon?
We get a brief preview of it here with Andre charging down toward Kingsley and the rest of the family abandoning Lucious, but how will the Lyons react to this shocking news? Cookie and Lucious had literally just gotten over their fight about her hiding the condo from him.
What we will also see in the second half of the season is, how do each of the Lyons deal with the fact that Lucious has this son, and how does that son fit into the framework of the Lyon family? And I think this has a great impact on Cookie because, as you said, she has sold the condo and said she’s all in, only to be blindsided by this surprise. So how does Cookie deal with that?
Lucious has been pretty calm this year and has probably changed as much as he can, but he flipped very quickly upon learning of Kingsley blaming him and Becky for the data mining at Empire, prompting him to badly beat up the son he didn’t yet know he had. Why the quick trigger?
In terms of coming up with the story and the data-mining thing, we were trying to figure out if you really wanted to get at Lucious, if you’re his spurned son as Kingsley is, what is one of the worst things you could do? And that was erasing Lucious from the equation and trying to destroy his legacy, and then turning his company into a snitch. To me, that is one of the greatest offenses that Lucious could suffer, and I think that explains his reaction in that moment. Because I do feel like he is trying to be better and he is on this upward swing, but that just dragged him right back down.
With Becky now also gone from Empire, do you ever worry about getting too far removed from the actual empire?
Oh, I’m very cognizant of that. I’m actually really happy that we were able to make this work with all of the new characters that we had at Empire. I think Gisele’s offer to Cookie and Lucious with a route to come back to Empire is very real.
All the Lyon sons — minus new addition Kingsley — had relationship dilemmas in the finale. Starting with Hakeem and Tiana, are they headed for a final split?
For them, it’s about growing up and maturing, and also about finally putting the kids first, as opposed to their own emotions and feelings and jealousies. I think they are moving to the next level of maturity, which might mean that they’re not together.
Then we have Jamal having to choose between Kai and his family, and making Kai choose between him and his work; where will that relationship stand when the show returns?
That is sort of Jamal’s challenge in the past, and it still is. Kai is basically asking, “What do you want to be, Jamal? Do you want to be Lucious and Cookie’s son, or do you want to be my husband?” And Jamal is saying, “Listen, I can love you and be a Lyon at the same time. I can’t run away from my family responsibilities.” That’s a challenge for Jamal and how he defines himself, and something he will have to deal with moving forward.
Will the next episode pick up right where we left off, with Kingsley and little brother Andre facing off?
We pick up very quickly after, but it’s more about Lucious and Cookie and how they move forward from that scene.
Beyond that first scene, what else can we expect in the final episodes of the season?
The second half of the season is going to be about this other Lyon son, and just because you’re his biological son, does that make you a Lyon? And how do the other Lyons react to that? And also, we’re going to be dealing a lot with Cookie and Lucious and their relationship, and one question might be: If they were to get Empire back, what does it mean for their relationship?
Empire will return to Fox in early 2019.