Fox has opted not to proceed with a spinoff of its signature drama series Empire that centered on the larger-than-life character of Cookie Lyon, played by Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson. Disney TV Studios’ 20th Television, which produces the project with Imagine TV, is currently shopping it to Disney outlets ABC and Hulu, I hear.
The mothership series, created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, ran on Fox for six seasons. A spinoff of such a successful series comes with a high price tag, which is hard for a broadcast network to cover, especially when it is not affiliated with the studio as is the case with Fox and 20th TV, which became separated by the Disney-Fox acquisition toward the end of Empire‘s run. (Fox Entertainment has no ownership in the spinoff, written/exec produced by Strong, Stacy A. Littlejohn and Yolonda Lawrence, with Empire vet Sanaa Hamri set to direct.)
While Fox brass felt this was not the right show for the network at this time, they are committed to staying in business with the creative collaborators of Empire and the proposed spinoff. The network recently opened a writers room for drama Our Kind of People, from Lee, Karen Gist and 20th TV, with an eye to a series order that appears likely.
20th TV and Imagine TV are currently exploring a potential new home for the Empire spinoff within the Disney TV universe, with ABC and Hulu as primary targets. Strong and Henson are both under deals at 20th TV and both have other projects in various stages of development. Strong is working on series Dopesick for Hulu, starring Michael Keaton and directed by Barry Levinson, which started shooting in Virginia last week. Henson also has a TV series in the works. Outside of her 20th TV deal, she will make her feature directorial debut and star in Two-Faced.