The record breaking success of Fox’s Empire is undeniable – and much of that has to do with who’s writing it.
In addition to attracting a cult-like following and huge ratings on Fox, the series has also created impassioned dialogue about it’s representation of black characters on television.
During a recent roundtable discussion covered in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Empire director Lee Daniels and five of drama tv’s most effective writers and producers – including Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”), Damon Lindelof (“The Leftovers”), Alex Gansa (“Homeland”), Michelle King (“The Good Wife”), and Sarah Treem (“The Affair”) — discussed a myriad of topics affecting their industry, including the lack of diversity in a majority of Hollywood’s writing rooms.
Even before it debuted, Empire quickly gained notoriety in the industry for having the most diverse writers room in network television; with six of the nine writers being people of color.
Daniels was candid about how that made him feel on a personal level.
I don’t know what gives me more pleasure: watching my story unfold or going in and watching a room full of black people talking for me and writing words for black people.
I hate white people writing for black people; it’s so offensive. So we go out and look specifically for African-American voices. Yes, it’s all about reverse racism!
Francie Calfo, head of Imagine Television, the studio behind Empire, had a more politically correct explanation about how the show comes together.
“It wasn’t as if we sat down and said, ‘Let’s find the best African-American writers for this show,’” he told Variety in January. “We were just looking for the best writers.”