Empire didn’t leapfrog to the top of the TV charts by playing things safe and sane, but even the Fox executives profiting from Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s crazier impulses apparently have reachable limits. Case in point: a plotline slated for the show’s second season premiere, in which Chris Rock, playing a fellow prison inmate of Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon, was to be shown digging into “a plate of human body parts” as an unrepentant cannibal.
According to a Hollywood Reporter cover story on the show, Fox balked at the idea of the Head Of State dining on human viscera, and requested the plot be cut. Lee Daniels being Lee Daniels, though, he reportedly pushed ahead with filming Rock—who requested something “cool and twisted” to do when he added his name to the massive roster of guest star talent on the show’s sophomore season—as a man-eating menace to society. (No word on whether the Empire crew filmed a scene where Rock asked how much it would cost him to get just a single human rib.) After Fox caught wind of the culinary crimes, Daniels was apparently forced to ask Rock back to the set for reshoots to make the whole “devouring another person on primetime TV” thing a little more subtle and palatable for audiences.
The experience doesn’t seem to have cowed the director and producer, though; Daniels recently flummoxed Fox executives when he casually announced back in August that he was expecting a spinoff of the show sometime in the near future, and was vocal in the THR piece about his support for the embattled Howard. “That poor boy,” Daniels said, alluding to allegations of domestic abuse that have been launched against the actor. “He ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some fuckin’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Empire returns to Fox on September 23.