Our favorite hip-hop family is about to take over our TV screens again on Wednesday nights. Lucious Lyon and his tribe are back Sept. 21 for the Season 3 premiere of Fox’s “Empire.” When things ended in Season 2, the family’s world was about to be torn apart.
Fans already know the upcoming third season will be just as heart-stopping and jaw-dropping as last season, but here are six things to know about the new episodes before the show picks back up:
- Guest Stars
“Empire” has lined up some big names to make appearances on Season 3. Probably the most buzzed-about guest star is Mariah Carey, who was tapped to play Kitty. The character is described as a friend of Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson). She will also help Jamal (Jussie Smollett) overcome some challenges and make a musical breakthrough before collaborating on a song with him. Carey’s episode will air Oct. 5.
French Montana is also joining “Empire” in a guest starring role as Vaughn, a music mogul who has ties to Lucious (Terrence Howard). Fans will also see Taye Diggs on Season 3, playing a character named Angelo Dubois. Angelo sounds like he’s going to be an interesting character. Not only is he said to be a rumored love interest for Cookie, Angelo comes from a wealthy African-American family and forgoes making millions working in the private sector to focus on local politics and community organizing. Angelo is said to be similar to President Barack Obama. Former “The Cosby Show” star Phylicia Rashad will play Angelo’s mother, Diana Dubois. Variety previously reported that Diana is the matriarch of her family and is determined to see that her son works in higher office.
Other guest stars include Birdman as himself, “Daddy’s Little Girls” star Sierra McClain as singer Nessa and Romeo Miller as Gram. The role of Gram first went to Kid Cudi but the rapper left the series over “creative differences,” Entertainment Weekly reported. Gram will be a rival to Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and the new boyfriend of Tiana (Serayah McNeil).
- A Major Character Death
Season 2 of “Empire” ended with Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) and Anika (Grace Gealey) fighting each other outside on a roof. Andre (Trai Byers) came up to the roof to get a pregnant Anika, but witnessed one of them falling over the edge. The episode ended with Andre staring at what just happened in horror and disbelief.
Even though it’s not clear what exactly happened on that roof, it was revealed that either Anika or Rhonda dies. During an interview with “Extra” last month, Henson confirmed that one of the ladies doesn’t survive the fall. “They send us the script and then everybody’s calling each other like, ‘What? What? What?’” Henson teased. Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait long to find out whether Anika or Rhonda met a grim death. “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken told Variety it will be addressed in a “fabulous and heart-stopping way” early in Season 3.
- Episode 1 Synopsis
As mentioned, the Season 3 premiere will pick up immediately following the events in last season. The synopsis (via TV Guide) states: “Season 3 picks up with Hakeem left at the altar, Lucious and Anika newly married, and someone falling off a roof during a fight.” Fans will also see Lucious trying to make his streaming service a “huge success,” but running into complications with his half-brother Tariq (Morocco Omari).
- Young Lucious and Cookie
Up-and-coming stars Jeremy Carver and Ajiona Alexus have been added to the Season 3 cast as a young Lucious and Cookie, respectively. According to Deadline, flashbacks will reveal how Lucious and Cookie first met when they were teenagers. A young Cookie is described as a “beautiful” and “innocent” teenager attending Catholic school. Even though Cookie is young, she still has that “spark.” Teenage Lucious is said to have a “bad-boy edge” that catches Cookie’s attention. Joining Alexus and Carver is newcomer Ezri Walker, who plays a nerdy 16-year-old aspiring rapper named Zeah.
- Timbaland Leaves Music Team
Timbaland led the music team for Seasons 1 and 2, but he won’t be leading it for the third season. Shawn Holiday, senior VP of A&R for Columbia Records, which releases the show’s music, told Billboard that Timbaland is leaving because the show is going in a different direction for Season 3. “We dealt with a lot of family drama in the first season,” he said. “So we’re going for the same success with upcoming songs like ‘Mama,’ about Cookie being the backbone of the family, and a duet with Mariah Carey and Jussie Smollett.” Songwriter Rodney Jerkins is taking over as supervising music producer. Singer/songwriter Ester Dean also joined the music team, along with songwriters Johntá Austin, Makeba Riddick and Jesse St. John. Ne-Yo and J.R. Rotem are returning for Season 3.
- Preview Of New Music
One of the songs fans can expect to hear on the new season is “Need Freedom,” featuring Smollett. Jerkins told Billboard that the empowering track was originally written for the character Freda Gatz (Be-Z), but after he met up with Smollett they changed things. The song now focuses on the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, as well the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the ambush against Dallas police officers. “It started as ‘Free Freda’ as she’s locked up in jail,” he explained. “But once I sat down with Jussie, we started talking about everything going on in the country. It was like we couldn’t breathe. What are we doing as people, a nation; what messages are we sending to the next generation. Then this song came.” Listen to “Need Freedom” below.
“Empire” Season 3 premieres Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.