The year of diversity on television, and Hollywood at large, came full circle with Thursday morning’s Golden Globe nominations for a number of African American-led shows, namely Fox’s “Empire.” The hip hop drama landed both a nomination for best television drama and its leading lady Taraji P. Henson.
One of the show’s producers, Brian Grazer, spoke with The Times about the recognition and the show’s trailblazing run thus far:
All of our emails and texts and emojis were going crazy an hour ago.
When you first signed on, did you think it would be as much of a powerhouse as it is?
We had no idea. We started off as certainly underdogs because of the cast composition, because it’s largely an African American show -- and I’ve been producing African American movies and television shows for 20 years so I know how hard it is. [“Empire”] was a paradigm-breaking show. We had really good champions in Danny [Strong], Lee [Daniels] and Dana Walden [at Fox] believed in it. Not every network believed in it.
It just has worked for us. We believed in the simple nature of what it was, not knowing it was going to be a hit.
WINNER: miniseries actress - Lady Gaga
NOMINATED: miniseries(Suzanne Tenner / TNS)
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy; comedy actor - Christian Bale, Steve Carell; screenplay(Paramount Pictures / TNS)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; drama actress - Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara; director - Todd Haynes; original score(Courtesy of The Weinstein Compan / The Weinstein Company)
NOMINATED: drama actor - Eddie Redmayne; supporting actress - Alicia Vikander; original score(Agatha A. Nitecka / Focus Features)
WINNER: drama actress - Taraji P. Henson
NOMINATED: drama series(Chuck Hodes / FOX)
NOMINATED: miniseries; miniseries actress - Kirsten Dunst; miniseries actor - Patrick Wilson(Chris Large / FX)
WINNER: comedy actress - Jennifer Lawrence
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy(Merie Weismiller Wallace / 20th Century Fox)
NOMINATED: drama series; drama actor - Wagner Moura(Daniel Daza / Netflix)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; director - George Miller(Jasin Boland / TNS)
WINNER: supporting actor - Christian Slater; drama series
NOMINATED: drama actor - Rami Malek(Sarah Shatz / USA)
NOMINATED: comedy series; best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television - Uzo Aduba(JoJo Whilden / Netflix / TNS)
NOMINATED: drama series; drama actress - Caitriona Balfe; supporting actor - Tobias Menzies(Ed Miller / Starz Entertainment)
WINNER: drama actress - Brie Larson
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; screenplay(George Kraychyk / A24)
NOMINATED: motion picture drama; director - Tom McCarthy; screenplay(Kerry Hayes / TNS)
WINNER: supporting actress - Kate Winslet; screenplay
NOMINATED: drama actor - Michael Fassbender; original score(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures)
WINNER: comedy actor - Matt Damon; motion picture comedy
NOMINATED: director - Ridley Scott(Giles Keyte / 20th Century Fox / TNS)
WINNER: director - Alejandro González Iñárritu; drama actor - Leonardo DiCaprio; motion picture drama
NOMINATED: original score(Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox)
NOMINATED: motion picture comedy; comedy actress - Amy Schumer(Mary Cybulski / Universal Pictures)
NOMINATED: comedy series; comedy actor - Jeffrey Tambor; supporting actress - Judith Light(Beth Dubber / Amazon Studios)
NOMINATED: comedy series; comedy actress - Julia Louis-Dreyfus(Handout / TNS)
NOMINATED: miniseries actor - Mark Rylance; supporting actor - Damian Lewis(Giles Keyte / Masterpiece / BBC)
Why do you think people are responding?
It has so much unpredictability that lives in each episode. You’ve got these really great actors in Terrence [Howard] and Taraji [P. Henson], and now Jussie [Smollett] and Yazz and Trai [Byers]. They all have such strong character hooks and are delivering. So much so that we ourselves don’t know sometimes what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of invention that goes on on set everyday.
I think Danny’s premise of King Lear in the world of hip hop was a strong premise. I think that’s just worked well for us. Plus, it’s super glamorous. Another contributing element is that it’s world creation on a very high level. That hasn’t been really seen in hip hop.
You mentioned this briefly, but “Empire” is one of the shows leading the diversity charge on television. What does that say to the industry at large?
I think it’s such a great thing. We were committed, but didn’t know it could have this impact. It lowers those barriers that the establishment creates and enables other shows that have similar diversity issues to succeed. It gives them a chance.
And Taraji P. Henson landed an individual nomination.
I do think that between Terrence And Taraji, they’ve pioneered a movement in television that is really important. It’s a role model situation that enables other African American or expanded diversity casts to say, “Hey, look! It can work.”
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