The hit Fox drama “Empire” returns to TV with its fourth season premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 27. In anticipation of “Empire” Season 4, click through to discover the wealth behind the “Empire” cast members.
The ‘Empire’ Lowdown
For readers who have yet to catch an episode of “Empire,” the show is a drama that centers on a family business, the hip-hop music label Empire Entertainment.
Founder and CEO Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) was diagnosed with a serious disease in the first season and sought an heir to his empire among his three sons — college-educated executive Andre Lyon (Trai Byers), gay singer-songwriter and second son Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) and the talented rapper and feisty youngest son Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Gray).
Complicating matters, Lucious’ ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) returned from prison after serving 17 years and fought to reclaim her place in the music business and as the family’s matriarch.
In the show’s third season finale, Lucious and Cookie announced they were retiring from the business to travel. But when their car explodes, Lucious is left critically injured. In the “Empire” Season 4 premiere, expect Luscious to make his first public appearance after the Las Vegas explosion.
‘Empire’ Viewership, Ratings and Production Costs
“Empire” was created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the director and writer behind the 2013 film “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” The first episode premiered to 9.9 million viewers, numbers that jumped to over 16.7 million by the Season 1 finale, reports The Wrap. And at one point, “Empire” even beat the CBS show “The Big Bang Theory” in the adult demographic, reported Entertainment Weekly in 2015.
“Empire” Season 2 got off to a similarly impressive start with 16.2 million viewers during its premiere, though viewership declined markedly compared to the first season as the series progressed. During the show’s third season finale, ratings fell 37 percent in its key demographic when compared to the Season 2 finale, according to Deadline.
The Los Angeles Times estimated in 2015 “Empire” costs more than $3 million per episode to produce. Executive producer Brian Grazer told the publication, “The show has been made at a very smart price. It’s not expensive.”
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Taraji P. Henson’s Net Worth: $16 Million
“Empire” matriarch Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson, is a formidable force in the family known for her razor-sharp comebacks — not to mention the fierce right hook she threw in Season 1.
Henson is no featherweight when it comes to acting. Her TV and film credits include “Person of Interest,” “Hustle & Flow” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — the latter even scored her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
Henson’s role as Cookie has earned her two Emmy nominations: one in 2015 and one in 2016 for outstanding lead actress in a drama series.
She also won the 2016 Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actress in a drama television series. Her net worth is $16 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com.
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Terrence Howard’s Net Worth: $5 Million
Terrence Howard plays “Empire” patriarch Lucious Lyon, a devious character who pits his sons against each other while doing anything to maintain the status of the record company he founded. Howard reportedly makes $125,000 per episode, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
The actor has had a lengthy and successful acting career, with more than 80 TV and film credits to his name. Howard is well-known for his roles in the “Law & Order” franchise, 2008’s “Iron Man” and “Hustle & Flow,” for which he received a best actor Oscar nomination.
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Gabourey Sidibe’s Net Worth: $6 Million
Gabourey Sidibe rose to fame after playing the lead role in the film “Precious,” a breakout film that made over four times its $10 million budget following its release, according to Box Office Mojo figures. In “Empire,” Sidibe plays Lucious’ hard-working assistant Becky until she is eventually promoted to A&R.
Sidibe has also held roles in “American Horror Story” and “Difficult People.” Sidibe has amassed a net worth of $6 million, while gaining critical acclaim with a best actress Oscar nomination for “Precious.”
Jussie Smollett’s Net Worth: $500,000
Smollett plays Jamal Lyon. Besides “Empire,” he has appeared in “North,” “The Skinny” and in “Alien: Covenant.” He has also had roles on shows like “Coach,” “The Mindy Project” and “Revenge.” Smollett’s portrayal of Jamal is the breakout role of his career — although he can boast about “The Mighty Ducks” on his resume, as well. Smollett’s net worth is $500,000.
Bryshere Gray’s Net Worth: $2 Million
Gray plays the youngest son Hakeem Lyon, a hip-hop artist who’s initially more interested in his rich-kid lifestyle than learning how to run a music empire.
Much of Gray’s net worth might come from his own music career in addition to his role on “Empire.” He has performed under the stage name Yazz the Greatest at music festivals, including the Made in America Festival. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Gray is currently worth $2 million.
Trai Byers’ Net Worth: $1.5 Million
Before “Empire,” Byers landed roles on “All My Children” and “90210.” And he’s recently nabbed parts in major projects like the Oscar-nominated “Selma.”
In “Empire,” Byers plays Lyon’s eldest son Andre, a college-educated businessman who’s determined to head up the family business. Byers’ net worth is $1.5 million.
Grace Gealey’s Net Worth: $2 Million
Grace Gealey plays Anika Calhoun in a breakout role for the actress. Although Gealey’s character married Howard’s character on the show, she’s married to Trai Byers. Grace Gealey’s net worth totals $2 million.
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Lee Daniels’ Net Worth: $20 Million
Directing the hit series is Lee Daniels. He might not be one of the richest directors on this list, but his net worth is an impressive $20 million. Much of Daniels’ net worth is probably due to his success on previous projects, including “Shadowboxer,” “Precious” and “The Butler.” Along with his financial rewards, Daniels has received an Oscar nomination for best director.
Daniels is on a roll thanks to the success of “Empire.” More recently, Fox premiered a new show from Daniels called “Star.”
Danny Strong Net Worth: $5 Million
“Empire” co-creator Danny Strong’s net worth is $5 million. Strong has had success as an actor, writer and producer. Most recently, he had roles on series including “Mad Men,” “Justified,” “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” and “Billions.” He’s also appeared in films such as “Dangerous Minds,” “Pleasantville” and “The Butler.” Strong also helped write the screenplay for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” Parts 1 and 2.
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‘Empire’ Season 1 Guest Stars and Cameos
Season 1 of “Empire” featured a number of guest stars, including but not limited to:
- Cuba Gooding Jr.
- Jennifer Hudson
- Gladys Knight
- Anthony Hamilton
- Mary J. Blige
- Snoop Dogg
- Rita Ora
- Juicy J
- Patti LaBelle
- Courtney Love
- Judd Nelson
‘Empire’ Season 2 Guest Stars and Cameos
During “Empire” Season 2, some of the guest stars and cameos included:
- Alicia Keys
- Rosie O’Donnell
- Marisa Tomei
- Becky G
- Chris Rock
- Kelly Rowland
- Vivica A. Fox
- William Fichtner
‘Empire’ Season 3 Guest Stars and Cameos
In true “Empire” fashion, Season 3 saw some prominent names in the music and acting communities:
- French Montana
- Mariah Carey
- Eva Longoria