TCA 2015: 'Empire' is an unapologetic soap opera, spiced with life

TCA 2015: 'Empire' is an unapologetic soap opera, spiced with life
Terrence Howard stars in "Empire," a new drama about the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne. (Chuck Hodes / Fox)

Some drama series might flee from being labeled as a soap opera. The producers of Fox's new "Empire" embrace it.

"Don't you all miss 'Dynasty?'" exclaimed Lee Daniels, creator and executive producer, to reporters during a session for the drama at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. Co-star Tariji P. Henson spoke excitedly about the catfights on that show, "fluffy slippers and people stabbing each other in the back."

Daniels said "Empire" is in that vein, but it is also a true reflection of his experience.

"This show is my life," said Daniels, who also produced the films "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and "Precious." "It's mixed with happiness and sadness, just like 'The Butler' and "Precious'... as with life, with a little bit of camp."

"Empire," which premiered two weeks ago, has drawn positive reviews and large viewership, becoming one of the few bright spots on Fox's prime-time slate. The series, set in the world of hip hop and centered on the battle over a hit record company, stars Terrence Howard and Henson.

A bit of controversy entered the session when Howard was asked about his past troubles with the law, including multiple reports of domestic abuse.

The actor who married his third wife, Mira Pak, in 2013, spoke about how happy he was--the couple just announced that they are expecting their first child together.

"I've grown so much from anything that's happened in the past," he said. He said producers were not bothered with his personal baggage: "They looked at the power and talent of right now, and they embraced it."

Added Daniels, "Terrence has been front and center, taking bullets for all of us."