Lee Daniels Brings His Hard-Core Style to TV with Empire

*Artist like Gordon Parks, follow the model set forth by the ancients like Di Vinci and Imotep.  Those ancient wise men were artists, engineers, authors and foraged new paths in directions that others are either afraid or unable to venture into.

Like Parks and the other multi-talented greats, Lee Daniels has moved from one industry into the next and maintained a high level of success in both.

Moving from establishing and running a successful nursing company to building a production empire in Hollywood, Daniels has shown that he understands both the delicacies of science and health and the indefinite science of entertainment, creating Oscar winning productions such as “Monster’s Ball” starring Halle Barry and “Precious” starring Gabourey Sidibe, and Mo’Nique.  Both Berry and Sidibe won Oscars for their performances, but the accolades for those two films stretch very far.

Although not all of Di Vinci’s creations worked, nor was every shot that Parks created cover-worthy, Daniels has had a few projects that were not as well received as “Monster’s Ball,” such as “Glitter”{ starring Mariah Carrey, and “Shadowboxer” that starred Cuba Gooding Jr.  Daniels, however maintains a strong cult following and with quality star power and intelligent script selection he is able to find continued success.  Having cast members such as Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker it is not surprising that Daniel’s production of ‘Lee Daniel’s The Butler’ was received with both critical acclaim as well as cautious optimism.

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Daniels, like Parks, seeks to further diversify his resume, adding writer to his skillset, penning the pilot of his latest project, a television series called ‘Empire.’  Created for Fox, ‘Empire’ is “a unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire,” according to the website Imbd.com.

Daniels, who is known for bringing real life issues into his work, such as domestic violence and child abuse, has weaved one of his child hood dilemmas into the script, a father’s resentment towards his son’s sexual preference.  Daniels, a gay man, lived through such treatment with his own father.

At a recent screening of show, which is coming soon to Fox, Daniels spoke exclusively with EURweb’s Lee Bailey to discuss life, directing and his latest project.

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BAILEY: What’s the challenge of doing a show like this, from your perspective?
DANIELS: It was the hardest thing that I have ever done, because it’s collaboration.  You know, on a movie set, the director is God, but on a TV set, it really is ‘Congress,’ its ‘Senate.’  You have to really be a ‘president’ and listen to everyone’s opinion.  You’re not the ‘be-all-end-all,’ and it was a learning experience for me.  Each project in life prepared me for this, doing this show.  I was surrounded by a group of people who really supported me, from actors to the studio to the network, and that’s a hard thing to come by.  They said, “Lee, you do you.”  And they let me do me.  It’s me PG-13, for Fox.  And I could have gone to cable, I chose not to go to cable because I really felt that with cable, it would have been too wild, and I really wanted America to see homophobia in the African American and Latino community.  I wanted them to see how black people with money live, that we do live accordingly, that we can live this way.  I wanted them to see, also, how did Jay Z become Jay Z?  How did that just happen, where he’s on the phone with the President?  How do you go from selling drugs to being on top like that?  It happens.  I was with Alfred Liggins at TV-One, and he saw it in New York at the New York screening, and he said that he loved it.

He said, “Lee, I didn’t have to do that to get to where I had to get to.”

And I said, “Alfred you are a rare entity, because allot of us had to.”

I’ve done some things that I’m really not that excited about.  I’ve grown as a man.  I’ve done some things that I’m not proud about.  This is really homage to us folks that have really had to do things that we aren’t proud of to get to where we end up going.

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BAILEY:  It’s very, very real.  Although, the one thing that I didn’t hear, for which I’m glad, but I’m wondering how you did it, and that is, I didn’t hear the ‘N-word’. 
DANIELS:  I would have put it in there, but I chose, specifically not to.  I didn’t want it in there.  It’s not that type of party any more for me.  I don’t like the word.  I discovered it, because my next movie is ‘Richard Pryor.’  So, Richard had a moment, an epiphany, where he realizes that word was not a good word.  I’ve used it so often, so cavalierly, and it was a ‘ah-ha moment’ where I chose not to.  They would have let me.  You see we use every other word in there.  But I chose not to, specifically.

BAILEY:  Anything that you want to add?
DANIELS:  My very first interview was with you.

BAILEY:  Is that right? Wow!
DANIELS:  For Monster’s Ball.  And I hope that this isn’t my last.

BAILEY:  Congratulations!   

 

(Lee Daniels Brings His Hard-Core Style to TV with Empire)