Rhonda Lyon met a very grim death in the Season 3 premiere of Fox’s “Empire.” The character, played by Kaitlin Doubleday, was thrown off a 30-story building onto a parked car after getting into a fight with Anika.
Shortly after the premiere wrapped, Doubleday took to Twitter to share a few behind-the-scenes videos from the day she filmed the tragic death scene. In one video, the actress is seen preparing for the scene while joking around with Jussie Smollett. “Say bye guys,” she said to the camera. “Bye to Rhonda.” In a second video, Doubleday’s stunt double is seen suspended in the air before crashing down onto the parked car shattering all the windows. “This was incredible. We were all so impressed with my stunt woman,” Doubleday wrote. “She killed it (literally)! #empire.”
“Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken talked to TV Line following the premiere, revealing that the decision to kill off Rhonda instead of Anika (Grace Gealey) was simply because of where they saw Anika’s storyline going in Season 3. Last season it was revealed that Anika was pregnant with Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) baby and married Lucious (Terrence Howard) so she wouldn’t have to testify against him. In the Season 3 premiere, she gave birth to a baby girl named Bella.
“While we had every intention of having both of those characters in our stories for years to come, we had to think about how we’d set up the Anika story for Season 3,” Chaiken explained. “What is the point of having Anika marry Lucious in that twisted scene at the end of our finale if we’re not going to go forward and tell that story? Ultimately, that tipped the decision.”
Chaiken also dished on the death scene to Variety, telling the outlet that killing Rhonda was a “really, really tough decision” for the team. “It wasn’t as if we had an agenda last season. We love the character and we love the actress and we didn’t want to lose her from the show. It was really the story that led to the decision,” she said. “That fight on the balcony, it just happened. It wasn’t in the original finale script, and as Lee [Daniels] and I were working on it, we loved it and we said, we have to do it. And then I said, ‘Lee, you realized that means one of these women will be killed off?!’ Lee and Danny [Strong] both said, ‘No! We love them both! They can’t die!’ But after much anguishing, we came to the very, very tough conclusion.”
Even though Rhonda is dead, it doesn’t mean fans won’t get to see the character on the show anymore. Towards the end of the premiere, Rhonda made an appearance in the form of Andre’s (Trai Byers) hallucination. Chaiken told TV Line that fans could “very well” see more of that in future episodes.
“Empire” Season 3 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.