On Saturday, September 23rd when the casts of Empire and Star gathered atop the One World Trade Center Observatory, the mood was entirely celebratory. The celebs and their friends mingled and toasted to what will likely be a great season in television. It is the fourth for Empire and the second for Star, which FOX Television Group CEO, Dana Walden appropriately calls, “Empire’s Little Sister.”
Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong in 2015, Empire has broken records and garnered critical acclaim. Now more than ever, the show has shown the ability to pull in major guest stars and to pull off major plots. “Our show is not just a drama, it also has some soap opera elements,” says Terrence Howard, “So we’re always balancing those elements and maintaining a sense of ‘realness.’”
The same is true for Star which debuted in 2016. The musical drama is similar to Empire, but does a better job in capturing the evolution of an artist from their earliest beginnings. The first season was jam packed with issues from experiences in the foster care system, to abuse, to the challenges of trans-women. Every episode of Star is loaded with hot button issues. Something for which creator, Lee Daniels has been criticized. “I look at myself as an artist first,” Daniels stated in a roundtable interview, “I’m not here to please. I’m here to make you think.”
The many issues that both Empire and Star tackle have an impact on the stars. For actor Trai Byers, who plays Andre, playing a character with bi-polar disorder is not just a challenge but an opportunity that carries significant weight with his fans, “Dealing with the issue of bi-polar disorder in this show has given a lot of people courage. Mental health is a stigma that can be helped with a diagnosis, and I think it resonates with fans. I hear that from them a lot.”
For Star actress, Amiyah Scott being a trans-woman and playing a trans-woman with numerous issues is personal. She hopes to empower and humanize the women in her community. “I hope that by seeing me and the challenges that my character goes through that they see that we are trans-women, women, but human beings first who deserve to feel just as safe as anyone when we leave our house.”
Watch Empire and Star on FOX, Wednesday nights starting at 8/7 EST/CST.