The hit Fox drama Empire has been off the air for over a year now, leaving fans wondering when the show will return with new episodes. If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is: Unfortunately, Empire was cancelled and will not be returning with any new episodes.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the future of Empire, including why it was cancelled, if there are plans to wrap up the story, and where you may see the cast in future shows.
Why Was Empire Cancelled?
The hit Fox drama Empire saw a decline in viewership over its last few seasons before being cancelled in 2020. The show premiered to huge ratings back in 2015, averaging 17.3 million viewers during its first season. However, by Season 4, viewership had dropped to around 7 million.
Season 6, cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, was averaging just 3.9 million viewers per episode.
There are a few reasons Empire’s audience faded over time. For one, the novelty of the show’s splashy soap opera premise wore off. Music dramas were all the rage when Empire premiered, but interest cooled. Competing shows like Star also stole some of Empire’s thunder.
Critics felt the plots became repetitious. And some fans were turned off by the increasingly outlandish storylines in later seasons.
Off-screen controversies also plagued the show. Star Jussie Smollett made headlines in 2019 when he was accused of staging a hate crime against himself. The scandal caused ratings to dip and Smollett was eventually written out of Empire’s final season.
Then series regulars Trai Byers and Grace Gealey split right before their characters wed on the show. Co-creator Lee Daniels even called the drama “toxic” before Season 6.
Ultimately, Empire was cancelled in 2020 after six seasons as ratings bottomed out. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented the planned series finale from being filmed. But despite its precipitous fall, Empire leaves an influential legacy as one of the most popular scripted series in Black households over the past decade.
Was the Empire Story Left Unfinished?
Fans of the hit Fox drama Empire were left with an unresolved cliffhanger when the show was abruptly cancelled in 2020 after six seasons. The musical family drama about hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon and his family’s record company left viewers hanging when the final episode ended on an unfinished storyline.
So did Empire leave its story unfinished? Let’s take a look.
Empire was riding high after a successful first season in 2015, becoming one of the most popular shows on television. However, behind the scenes, controversy was brewing. In January 2019, actor Jussie Smollett claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, which later was revealed by police to be an allegedly staged hoax.
This caused drama on set and Smollett’s role was reduced in the final season.
Then in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced production on Season 6 to shut down early. The planned series finale episode was never filmed. Instead, Empire’s final episode, titled “Home is on the Way,” focused on an upcoming performance by lead characters Cookie and Lucious Lyon.
But it left several storylines without resolution, including:
- Cookie and Lucious’ relationship was on the rocks. Would they reunite or split up?
- A mystery illness was afflicting Andre. Would he recover or die?
- Giselle’s scheming put Empire records in jeopardy. Would she succeed and cause the company’s downfall?
Empire’s creators had hoped to film a proper finale in the future. But Fox ended up cancelling the show entirely in May 2020. Lead actress Taraji P. Henson expressed disappointment, telling Variety, “I felt like we were jipped a proper finale.”
While sudden cancellations are not unusual in the TV world, they always leave fans wondering what might have been. Empire’s abrupt ending was unsatisfying for viewers who had invested six seasons in the juicy family drama.
Lucious, Cookie and the rest of the Lyon family never got the send-off they deserved.
Will There Be an Empire Spinoff?
Empire was a hugely popular musical drama series that aired on Fox from 2015 to 2020. The show focused on Lucious Lyon, a hip hop mogul, and his family as they fought for control of his record company.
While the original series ended after 6 seasons, many fans are curious if there could be an Empire spinoff in the works.
Potential for an Empire Spinoff Series
Given Empire’s popularity during its original run, there is certainly potential for a spinoff series. The show averaged over 17 million viewers during its first season, making it one of the biggest network dramas in years. Even in later seasons, it continued to pull in strong ratings.
This indicates that there is still an audience eager to see more of the Lyon family drama.
The expansive world of Empire also allows room for spinoffs. There are plenty of characters that could anchor their own shows, from Lucious’ ex-wife Cookie to his sons Hakeem and Andre. Even a prequel exploring Lucious’ early days in the music industry could make for compelling TV.
However, the biggest obstacle is the controversy surrounding former star Jussie Smollett. Smollett was written out of Empire after being accused of staging a hate crime attack against himself in 2019. This could make continuing the Empire brand difficult given the negative associations.
Statements from Showrunner About Potential Spinoff
Empire’s co-creator Lee Daniels has expressed interest in doing a spinoff, but has not confirmed concrete plans. In an interview with Deadline in May 2020, Daniels said “I would love to do a spinoff, but it’s too soon. I’m still grieving the loss of Empire.”
Daniels also mentioned the idea of a 1980s prequel series telling Cookie Lyon’s story: “I’m putting out there in the universe that Taraji P. Henson would play Cookie in the 1980s. It’s brewing.” However, Daniels did follow up by saying “It may happen, it may not. I have no idea.”
So while a spinoff is certainly possible, it does not seem like there are any concrete plans in development yet. Daniels seems open to revisiting the Empire world, but may be waiting for the right idea and timing.
Potential Spinoff Focus
If an Empire spinoff does happen, Cookie Lyon seems the most likely character to build it around. Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of the fierce Cookie was a major standout on Empire. Fans would surely tune in to see more of Cookie’s journey.
A prequel exploring Cookie’s life before her Empire days would allow the show to tap into 1980s nostalgia while also expanding on Cookie’s backstory. Other possibilities could involve Cookie launching her own record label or a sequel series catching up with an older Cookie later in life.
There is also a chance a spinoff could focus on one of Lucious’ sons. Jussie Smollett’s legal issues likely rule him out, but stories centered on Bryshere Gray’s Hakeem or Trai Byers’ Andre could work. However, the most buzz seems to surround potential Cookie-focused ideas.
What Are the Empire Stars Up to Now?
It’s been over 2 years since the popular Fox drama Empire aired its final episode in April 2020 after a 6 season run. With rumors of spinoffs and reunions swirling, what have the show’s talented cast been working on since leaving the Lyons behind?
Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon)
The dynamic Taraji P. Henson has stayed plenty busy since Empire, starring in films like The Best of Enemies and Coffee & Kareem. She also created and hosts the Facebook Watch series Peace of Mind with Taraji, shining a light on mental health issues in the Black community.
Up next, Henson is developing an Empire spinoff focused on Cookie Lyon – no network is attached yet, but fans are hopeful!
Terrence Howard (Lucious Lyon)
As hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon, Terrence Howard made quite the impression. He has since appeared in movies like Triumph and The Best Man: The Final Chapters. On the music front, Howard released his first album Shine Through It in September 2020.
He also made headlines with his scientific and philosophical tweets about the universe and his views on modern medicine.
Bryshere “Yazz” Gray (Hakeem Lyon)
Playing the talented but hot-headed Hakeem Lyon, Bryshere “Yazz” Gray won a 2015 BET Award for Best New Artist thanks to Empire‘s musical storylines. Since then, he has acted in indie films such as Canal Street and Ride Share. In 2021, Gray made his Broadway debut in Thoughts of a Colored Man.
Next up are roles in the basketball drama Hustle & Grow and western Death Alley.
Grace Gealey (Anika Calhoun)
As Lucious Lyon’s wife Anika, Grace Gealey frequently went toe-to-toe with Cookie. Gealey has appeared in supporting roles in buzzy films like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks starring Oprah Winfrey and the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect with Jennifer Hudson.
She also starred in several Lifetime movies and the 2019 BET romcom Holiday Heartbreak.
While it’s disappointing that Empire will not return to wrap up the story it started back in 2015, fans can take some comfort in knowing what projects the cast is working on next. Be sure to look out for Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Gray, and more in upcoming shows and films as they move on from their iconic Empire roles.
Even though the show is over, Empire made a lasting impact during its six season run as one of the most popular and groundbreaking series on television in recent years. The music, drama and talent showcased leaves behind an impressive legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.