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NPR Arts & Life

Swagger On Display At 'Empire' Season Finale Parties

Jamal (played by Jussie Smollett) and Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson) attend the all white party in the "The Lyon's Roar" episode of Empire.
Jamal (played by Jussie Smollett) and Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson) attend the all white party in the "The Lyon's Roar" episode of Empire.

Last night was Empire's season finale, and at one of D.C.'s biggest Empire watch parties, a sharply dressed crowd of hundreds is huddled around every flat-screen in The Stone Fish Grill Lounge downtown.

"Here we go! Here we go! Here we go, come on everyone! Round of applause!" shouts one of the hosts for the night. "It's Empire time!"

Empire is about the messy family politics behind a hip-hop label. The owner's son is a rapper, and in one of the finale's key scenes, he trashes his father in verse. Dad knocks him out. It's exactly the kind of drama D.C. native Brian Fagan loves.

"Every week you're on the edge of your seat waiting for what's happening next," he says. "You only get that in a few shows these days."

In a primetime soap opera filled with glamorous apartments and designer bling, Oscar-nominated actor, Taraji P. Henson, is the show's breakout star. Her character Cookie's insults and animal prints have kept the fans' tweets and obsession flowing.

"God, please do not withhold your blessings, even from the hoes that hire skanks to spy on me," she says in one episode.

"It's a hype night," she says. "It's a finale night."

At the D.C. watch party, there's a Cookie makeover station and impersonation contest.

Tee Lewis, a D.C. native, came out tonight because she wanted to see the final episode with a crowd. "It's a hype night," she says. "It's a finale night."

Whenever the commercials end and the dialogue is back, nobody in this audience wants to miss a beat. At one point, this reporter was shushed for talking over one of Cookie's trademark insults.

Critics have raved about how Empire shatters assumptions about who watches so-called black TV shows. Its white and Latino audiences have grown week after week. It's also not a heavy-handed show about race, civil rights, or politics. It's meant to be fun.

Lee Daniels, one of Hollywood's leading black filmmakers, helped create Empire. And Tee Lewis says she just hopes he can build on that success.

"It probably shocked him ...so now he's got to get back to the drawing board and get ready for another season cause we hungry," she says. "We want more."

Fox has already renewed Empire and the second season is expected to air later this year.

Here's how some more fans around the country celebrated the season finale:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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