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This is the character page for the TV series Empire. It is divided by the Lyon Family, Empire Records Associates, and Others. Feel free to move characters around if their affiliations change over the course of the show.


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The Lyon Family

The family at the center of the drama. In addition to the five immediate Lyons, also included are spouses and Cookie's relatives.

    In General 

The Lyon Family


  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Perhaps the most screwed-up family in the setting, at that. Granted, most of the damage is done by Lucious and, by extension, his mother.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Some of them (Andre, Hakeem, and Lucious to be exact) have no scruples on turning against the other occasionally to get what they want.
  • Enemy Mine: This tends to be Lucious against the rest of the family, yet even he helps the others stop anyone else trying to take over or destroy Empire.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played With. Lucious and Hakeem's Manly Man to Jamal and Andre's Sensitive Guy, but Jamal and Andre are more dangerous when pushed. When Tariq insults Cookie at the dinner table, Lucious and Hakeem don't do anything, but Andre starts angrily yelling at him and Jamal is ready to knock him out. Then off course, there's the matter of what Jamal did to Warren's face...
  • The Stool Pigeon: Hates these, as all members tend to look down on snitching and avoid it when it can be helped.
  • The Team:
    • In Season 1, they form a Villain Protagonist team that's roughly a Five-Man Band. Lucious, the patriarch and CEO, is the Big Bad whose antagonism drives most of the plot. Anika, his fiancée, is Dark Mistress and The Dragon as head of A&R. Andre, the CFO, is the Evil Genius and appropriately a Non-Action Guy (in this case not a singer, rather than not a fighter). Hakeem is The Brute and Tag Along Kid, the least involved in the business but known as a great rapper, and constantly shown working out. Rhonda is the Dark Chick seductress, and head of fashion. Jamal is the outlier as the Token Good Teammate who just wants Lucious' acknowledgement. Cookie is the Sixth Ranger, reasserting her dominance after being in jail for 17 years, and promotes herself to Co-Dragons sparking a rivalry with Anika as the co-founder and ex-wife.
    • In Season 2, alliances get shifted around:
      • At Empire, Lucious is still the Big Bad, but Jamal has been corrupted and promoted to The Dragon as the heir to the Empire. The others split off and form Lyon Dynasty as a rebuttal. However, Lucious recruits Thirsty Rawlings, a new defense attorney as his Evil Genius, steals Mimi from the hostile takeover as the new Dark Chick, and gets Freda Gatz, a street rapper and daughter of an old enemy drug lord, to be his new Brute to replace and challenge Hakeem. Andre eventually returns as a Sixth Ranger, trying to change the culture from the inside.
      • Meanwhile at Lyon Dynasty, Cookie is The Leader, Anika is sometimes her Lancer, Hakeem retains his Big Guy role and is also something of a Chosen One being trained to be Cookie's Number Two and seduced by Lucious to come back to Empire, and Andre and Rhonda retained their Smart Guy and Chick roles until defecting back to Empire. Laura becomes the new Chick as Hakeem's love interest and budding demure superstar.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Even when they're on the same side and same page, the Lyons just can't help sniping at each other. Most prominent with Hakeem and Cookie in season 1, and Lucious and anybody throughout the series.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: All share the common goal of wanting to strengthen and maintain Empire, yet opinions vary on whom should be in charge and how it should be run.

    Lucious Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/c18458f96d133c778bacec720a9e3dca.jpg
Played by: Terrance Howard

The Patriarch of the Lyon Family and CEO of Empire Records, Lucious is a '90s gangsta rapper who retired from making his own music to run the company. His declining health and wanting what's best for his family and company in the event of his death drives the series.


  • 0% Approval Rating: Lucious lampshades this as Olivia's boyfriend threatens the family, acknowledging that pretty much everyone hates him with good reason.
  • Abusive Parent: He's one towards Jamal for being gay. He is also emotionally abusive towards all his sons.
  • Alliterative Name: His first and last names both start with "L." Subverted when he reveals that "Lucious Lyon" is not his birth name.
  • Always Second Best: Despite all his other accolades, he had never won an American Sound Award (the show's version of the Grammys) despite being nominated several times, much to his chagrin.
  • Amazon Chaser: His main love interest is the fiery Cookie.
  • An Arm and a Leg: He loses the lower half of his left leg due to a car bombing.
  • At Least I Admit It: "Yeah, I'm a selfish son of a bitch."
  • Archnemesis Dad: Was this to Jamal first, but is now one to Hakeem and Andre.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Invoked. His birth name is "Dwight Walker"; he changed it to "Lucious Lyon" after becoming an orphan to give himself a badass edge. Not even Cookie was aware of this until Jamal publicly revealed the truth.
  • Badass Boast: Many of which that veer into A God Am I territory.
  • Berserk Button: When someone disrespects his music.
  • Big Bad: While Barretti and his company, Creedmore Entertainment, act as adversaries to the Lyons, it's Lucious' scheming and general antagonism that drive a lot of the conflict in the show.
  • Breaking Speech: When Camilla is already in the midst of a Villainous Breakdown, having murdered Mimi Whiteman for selling all her shares in Empire, essentially relinquishing control of the company in reaction to Camilla's infidelity, Lucious catches her and tells her that the room is bugged so he's well aware of that she did and spells out to her why she'll suffer a drawn-out Fate Worse than Death thanks to her actions and successfully drives her to suicide with her own poison.
  • Bullying the Dragon: It is not a good idea to bother this man. Veronica's manager came up to him, irritating him about his client's career, and demanding money from him, and it earned him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Though, he got off lightly in comparison to Bunkie, his own best friend, who tried to extort him for $3 million, and ended up getting murdered.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Has been on the receiving end of this by all three of his sons, multiple times. For all the good it ever does.
  • Can't Take Criticism: Whenever someone criticizes him about something, he either reacts violently or has a verbal response.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Game time, bitches".
    • "Handled".
  • Character Development: By the end of season 4, he is a completely different person.
  • The Chessmaster: He frequently is manipulating various people and circumstances on various levels, and even his collaborators are shocked at his revelations. In season 1, we learn that the background singer that Lucious forced Jamal to marry has returned with a child she claims is Jamal's. It is not until they are all threatened by an unhinged gunman that Lucious confesses that he is the actual father of the child, who slept with the singer in exchange for managing her career.
    • Taken to new heights in season 2, with him manipulating his way out of prison on bail, then later getting himself exonerated, re-taking Empire, and then having himself re-instated yet again after being deposed (granted, this time with Cookie as co-CEO).
  • Control Freak: Lucious tries to have control over his family through emotional and/or financial abuse.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: He will do anything, including murder, to preserve his financial and business interests.
  • The Corrupter: By Season 2, Jamal went from being a Nice Guy to being a more hostile and manipulative businessman under Lucious' influence.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Sometime in his childhood, his father was murdered by the NOI. And he was abused as a child at the hands of his mentally unstable mother. Then, he spent the rest of childhood hustling on the streets so he wouldn't be killed.
  • Dark Secret: In addition to his ALS, he also murdered Bunkie. His mother's mental illness and its effects on him have also become one in Season 2.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hints of this. Usually around Jamal's sexuality, and Barretti.
  • Didn't See That Coming: He sent Camilla away in season 1 by offering a bribe that she didn't even take. Then in season 2, she returns, married to his new investor Mimi, and uses her new wealth and (old) influence over Hakeem to oust him from Empire. He even admits this trope to Thirsty.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In Season 1, he told Jamal to tell the truth through his music. He didn't think for one second that Jamal would publicly come out of the closet.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The very first scene of the pilot is of him reminding a singer about her brother being fatally shot in order to get her to put more emotion into her singing. True to the rest of the series, Lucious uses everything and everyone at his disposal for the sake of the music comprising his empire, and does not shy away from hurting people in the process.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite all his greed and overall personality, he genuinely loves his family, and at one point offers his life in exchange for Jamal's despite their differences. And in "A High Hope for a Low Heaven", when being accused by Cookie of kidnapping Hakeem, he made it very clear that wasn't his style. Even after Hakeem essentially stole his company from him, it's heavily implied that he's on some level, proud of his burgeoning independence and maturity.
  • Expy: He has some Tywin Lannister in him, in that he is a powerful patriarch who will treat those close to him like shit, but will also protect them from outside threats.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He can act rather polite and friendly, especially when in a good mood, but it's a mask for the real Lucious: who is selfish, ruthless, violent, and very bad-tempered.
  • Foil: To Cookie. Both grew up in a hard neighborhood and had to develop a tough personality to survive. They have a passion for music, as well as questionable moments of ethics. Lucious, however, proves to be a borderline sociopath who uses his family and the people he supposedly loves to do his dirty work for him so he won't get caught. Cookie genuinely loves all of her sons and, despite her moments of being a Jerkass, especially to Anika, she ultimately proves to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Friend to All Children: Some of Lucious's rarest Pet the Dog moments are towards children. He completely melted when Lola stayed with the family and was overjoyed at Andre and Rhonda being pregnant.
  • A God Am I:
    • Overheard by Cookie to her horror, delivered in true supervillain fashion:
    Lucious: Everybody that crosses me dies! Everybody! And y'all can't kill me. You think Hakeem can hurt me? You think Cookie can hurt me, Bunkie? Your God can't even hurt this boy. He tried to kill me. But, man, guess what—I ain't got ALS. I ain't dying. I'm. Not. Dying. This ain't my goodbye concert, ain't no farewell... Man, this is my comeback concert! 'Cause I'm bout to come back like The Phoenix from the ashes! I'ma rise up from the dead like Jesus! I'm your messiah.
    • In the first season finale, he states his belief that music is the voice of God, that he himself is the most powerful force in music, goes out of his way to shake Andre's newfound faith, and believes he's immortal to the point that even God couldn't kill him since he's not dying of ALS. The last part is a bit of a fallacy since he didn't "beat" ALS (he was misdiagnosed and never had it to begin with).
    • And again in the second season premiere, when Frank Gathers orders some prisoners to kill Lucious for defending Cookie, only to be blocked off by said prisoners.
    Lucious: See Frankie, you always wanted to run these streets, but me, I wanted to rule the world.
    • Lucious has really embraced this in the second season. After being released from prison, his son Jamal tells him that Empire needs to hear from its king. Lucious's response? "Blasphemy. I am a god." He repeats this again when telling Jamal he will produce Jamal's new album; he states that Jamal needs a "a god" to produce him, referring to himself.
  • Grin of Audacity: He gives a totally epic one after he gets the news that his ALS was a misdiagnosis.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Prone to this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It doesn't lead to his death (rather, to a 3-month coma), but in the season 3 finale, he pushes Cookie away to save her from a car bomb and doesn't even bother to save himself.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Regarding Jamal, although at times he grudgingly accepts his homosexuality, ultimately he doesn't approve. At one point in season 2 he tells Jamal that he will be celebrating when Jamal finally dies of AIDS.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • During the White Party, Lucious tells Jamal to tell the truth through his music. It's one of the factors that finally gives Jamal the courage to publicly come out of the closet. Lucious is not amused.
    • His attempts to control Hakeem in Season 2, eventually leads to him losing control of his company.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • In the Season 1 finale, he gets arrested at his greatest hits concert.
    • Midway through Season 2, he is removed as CEO of Empire Records, ironically by the very woman he brought in as a board member, with Hakeem as the deciding vote.
  • Hypocrite:
    • He rejects Jamal's homosexuality, but is excited (perhaps a little too excited) to promote Tiana's bisexuality.
    • After he points out that Cookie hasn't visited not once in prison, Jamal gives him a facial expression concerning this before Lucious catches on.
    Lucious: Okay. Payback for the past.
    • Lucious is disgusted that Andre would use his unborn son to get back into Empire...even thought Lucious himself uses his own sons to get whatever he wants.
    • He calls out his sons for "being kids" even though he has done things within the likes of child-like behavior.
  • Iconic Outfit: Before his successful years, he always wore a black do-rag.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Even though Lucious is a textbook Control Freak, he can't help but keep loving the unpredictable Cookie who almost never listens to him.
  • Important Haircut: Sports a shaved head in Season 2.
  • Insult Backfire: Even after Jamal tells the press "Lucious Lyon" isn't his real name., Lucious realizes he doesn’t have to keep his origin story a secret anymore.
  • It's All About Me: Lucious' main priority is Lucious. Jamal even stated that the only person he's capable of loving is himself. Ultimately this turns out to be incorrect, when it comes down to it he will lay down his life for Cookie and his sons.
  • Jerkass: Lucious is an asshole.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: There are some times when he's right on certain things, no matter how LUCIOUS he can be.
  • Large Ham: The rare type that doesn't have to shout a lot or make dramatic gestures to give off these vibes. He talks calmly with an over-dramatic, soap opera-like emphasis on certain parts of the sentence. It's actually one of the charms of his character. That's not to say that he doesn't shout at the right moments.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Lucious frequently emotionally manipulates his family in order to get the results he wants.
  • Meaningful Name: His name is a variance of Lucifer, aka "the Devil".
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: While locked up for allegations of murder, he continued to heavily influence Jamal's business decisions at Empire (even web conferencing in a meeting), recorded and released a single, and had a nemesis murdered.
  • Mommy Issues: Keeps having flashbacks to his bipolar mother in Season 2.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In episode 9 of season 5 it finally hits him that he has made some horrible mistakes in regards to raising his children, especially Hakeem. Tiana and Hakeem's drama escalates the same way Cookie and Lucious' did. The result? Bella comes out of a room holding a gun and then pointing it at her face. Thankfully she hands the gun over and is unharmed, but it shakes Lucious, Cookie, Hakeem and Tiana to the core. Afterwards Lucious confronts Hakeem and explains to him that the vicious cycle of violent parents influencing their kids has to end.
  • Never My Fault: "Unto the Breach" heavily exemplifies this because Lucious blames Jamal for coming out at the White Party in the prior episode, resulting in artists defecting to rival record company Creedmoor when it was obviously Lucious' philandering that caused Anika to jump to Baretti's side. Jamal even reminds him.
    Jamal: You know what? You're right about one thing. Sexual proclivity is what put us in this position. Your proclivity, and the fact that you can't manage to simply keep it in your pants.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Henry the Second fitting into the whole The Lion in Winter in a record label setting. Has also been compared to to other TV antiheroes such as Tony Soprano, Walter White, and Don Draper.
    • Of Jay-Z, both came into the Rap game in the late 80s, both sold drugs in the beginning of their careers and both have set up their own Record Label. One could go even further and claim that Shine is the Jaz-O to Lucious' Jay-Z.
    • Sean "Puffy" Combs has also stated they took at least some nods from him in terms of his harsh and aggressive Suddenly SHOUTING! management style, which has already been parodied in Get Him to the Greek.
  • Offing the Offspring: After Hakeem votes against him in the board meeting - resulting in Lucious having to step down as CEO -, all bets are off. Lucious tells Hakeem to his face that he's going to come after everything he has, including his own life, to get back his company.
  • Papa Wolf: In spite of his jerkass personality, Lucious does love his sons. And he will do whatever it takes to protect them.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: He has Frank Gathers murdered in the second season premiere for trying to go after Cookie. Even better, he does it by turning Frank's own henchmen against him.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • In "The Lyon's Roar," it is revealed that Lucious dislikes white girls. He especially hates the fact that Andre is married to Rhonda, a white woman.
    • He doesn't like gay men, but has no problem with lesbian or bisexual women.
    • Lucious refused to hire a musician because said musician is a Muslim. To be more specific, said musician was a member of the Nation of Islam. Lucious showed brief reservations stemming from the fact that his father was killed by the NOI.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Has given two so far. First to Bunkie: "I never let anything come between us. Except a bullet." Next to Camilla, after he convinces her to drink the poison she used on Mimi: "Rot in hell."
  • Pride: Lucious's biggest character trait is his arrogance.
  • A Pupil of Mine, Until He Turned to Evil: How Barretti sees him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Frequently on the receiving end of this because of his selfish, abusive, and downright cruel nature.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Has this relationship with Barretti. Exemplified in "Unto the Breach" when it's revealed the latter has been working with Anika to steal artists from Empire.
    Lucious: You started it. Now I'm gonna finish it.
  • Rags to Riches: An orphan at nine, he spent much of his youth as a drug dealer before finding success with Empire, eventually become a billionaire.
  • Rated M for Manly: Deconstructed. Since both of his parents were gone by the time he was eight, he had to adopt a "hard" mentality to survive the streets. However, it also transformed him into a pure sociopath, and his image of "manliness" caused him to be an emotionally and physically abusive father to his sons should either deviate from said image.
  • Really Gets Around: He has a number of sexual partners through the series.
  • Retired Badass: Musically speaking. Though, outside of music, he is a former hustler.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: He believes his money and power justify the horrible things he does. He told the federal prosecutor investigating him for murder that it didn't matter whether he had done it or not, only that he was better than her because he never makes mistakes.
  • Secretly Dying: Lucious is diagnosed with the incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and has thus started the series by trying to see which of his sons will make a suitable heir. His illness is a secret that only a few are aware of (initially). It turns out that he was misdiagnosed.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Refuses to acknowledge that two of his sons are either gay or have a mental illness.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Lucious stated that his mother committed suicide after she nearly drowned him in the bathtub during one of her bipolar episodes. He even takes Andre to her grave. It turns out that his mother is alive and Lucious had her placed in a nursing home the whole time.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: He is always dressed impeccably, and his music company extends to fashion as well.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: They did in his case when he was nine years old as his mother was mentally unbearably. However, he "absconded" into the streets before they can even do anything.

  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Not above this, at least regarding his enemies. Particularly, he tells both Vernon and Camilla to "rot in hell"—the former after discovering the body and the latter while they're dying—though Lucious also makes sure to do both privately.
  • The Stoic: Usually, he rarely cracks a smile. Well, sometimes he smile, when he's in a good mood.
  • Take Me Instead: Does this when Olivia's ex-boyfriend holds Jamal at gunpoint, saying everybody there hates him and will be glad if he's the one who dies.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The pistol he keeps belonged to his mother.
  • Troll:
    • He does this to Andre and Rhonda while they are trying to exhume Vernon's body. He initially pretended to be a cop who had caught them in the act.
    • He arrives in the office of the CEO (read: at this point, he has already been ousted), expressing pride for Hakeem for "killing" his ex-lover Camilla Marks-Whiteman to ensure his control of the company, just to get a reaction from him. Even though he was the one who drove her to suicide.
  • Troubled Abuser: His own experience with dealing with his mentally ill mother has affected his own behavior, most notably the way he treats Andre, who also suffers from mental illness.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Anytime anyone does something nice for him, he won't even say "thank you".
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Flashbacks of his childhood in Season 2 show that Lucious was a nice kid.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lucious is the central character of the show. He also physically and emotionally abuses his gay son, forced his first wife to take the fall for him after running drugs, then divorced her in prison, beat up the manager of one of his artists because he was getting on his nerves, and murders his cousin in-law and best friend because he was getting greedy.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Is brought to firing a rifle in his own home towards his awards collection, after he is ousted as CEO of Empire Records by Mimi Whiteman thanks to Hakeem using the deciding vote against him during the board decision meeting. He rants on the effort and sacrifice it took to build the company, which in his words blackened his very soul, is so easily taken from him thanks to the spiteful actions of his youngest son.
  • Wham Line: In "Sins of the Father," he admits that he's Lola father, not Jamal.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: While the "hero" is universally debated, Lucious has gotten this from time to time
  • Yandere: He fires Cookie after he finds out about her and Malcolm.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Doesn't even pretend not to chase other women. He even admits it.
    Lucious: Well, I've been with a whole lot of women, Cookie.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lucious has ALS; his doctor gives him about three years to live. It is later revealed that he was misdiagnosed, and he is not going to die after all.

    Cookie Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/765369c699d1051e9e541eccb7a0e679.jpg
Played by: Taraji P. Henson

Lucious' spirited ex-wife, the mother of their three children, and a talented producer. A former drug dealer incarcerated after a bust, she is released from prison after serving 17 years. It was her money that launched Empire Records, and she believes she rightfully owns half the company.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Deconstructed. Cookie was very much in love with Lucious, but he made her take a murder wrap that he committed, abused their sons (especially Jamal) while she was in jail, and felt no remorse for his actions. And when he promised that he would dump Anika for Cookie, he backed out of it, effectively pissing Cookie off. However, the final nail in the coffin for any romantic relationship was Lucious revealing that he impregnated Jamal's wife so Jamal could fully commit to the marriage.
  • Alliterative Name: Her name is "Loretha Lyon." Even though she goes by Cookie, it counts.
  • And Starring: In the opening credits.
  • Animal Motif: Despite being a Lyon, she has an affinity for leopard print, hinting that she's similar to Lucious but cut from a different cloth.
  • Archnemesis Mom: Hakeem is hostile towards Cookie, resenting her for being in jail when he was growing up.
  • Batter Up!: Utilizes this trope in "Sound and Fury" after Lucious chooses Anika to be the new of A&R.
  • Berserk Button: A lot of things set her off. Don't mess with Cookie...at all. Most notably, Anika's very presence has been shown to drive her up the wall.
    • Also, don't call her by her first name "Loretha".
  • Boring, but Practical: Subverted. She's not a singer herself and primarily works as a producer and manager behind the scenes, but needless to say, "boring" is the last word one would use to describe her.
  • Breakout Character: The true star of the show, which FOX picked up on rather early:
    Announcer: Hungry for more Cookie? An all-new Empire is coming up next!
  • Brutal Honesty
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite her fiery personality and upbringing, she's a very capable producer and manager with a well-trained ear who knows how to bring the best out of her artists and get the hype train moving.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: She's never really liked seeing Lucious being with anybody but herself, but it really comes through in season 4. After Lucious loses his memory, Cookie becomes insanely jealous of his female therapist. Every time the therapist tries to help Lucious, Cookie sees her as a potential romantic rival.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Cookie sold drugs with her then husband, Lucious. She witnessed him abuse Jamal when their son wore his mother's clothing. Then she spent 17 years in jail, covering for Lucious.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Oh, very much so. Especially towards Anika.
  • Didn't Think This Through: She tries to suffocate Lucious in his bedroom. Unfortunately for her, Lucious had cameras installed in his house.
  • Embarrassing First Name: "My Bad Parts" reveals her real name is Loretha.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Cookie may be no saint, but she was appalled of the horrible things Lucious has done to their sons. What really made her hate his guts entirely was learning he impregnated Jamal's ex-wife, Olivia, during their marriage, in order to make sure that Jamal would be fully committed to her.
  • Evil Matriarch: Hakeem certainly sees her this way. They seemed to have ironed things out near the end of Season 1.
  • The Fashionista: Her taste in clothing is about as subtle as the rest of her.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Downplayed. Given that she was locked up in the late '90s, she had to be brought up to speed on things like social media and other changes in pop culture, though she adapted quickly.
  • Foil: With Lucious. Both grew up in a hard neighborhood and had to develop a tough personality to survive. They have a passion for music, as well as questionable moments of ethics. However, Lucious proves to be a bordering sociopath who uses his family and the people he supposedly loves to do his dirty work for him so he won't get caught; Cookie genuinely loves all of her sons and, despite her moments of being a Jerkass (especially to Anika), she ultimately proves to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Fur and Loathing: She wears a lot of fur and she definitely has a lot of loathing.
  • Good Parents: Most certainly. She is the one who supports her sons through thick and thin. If Cookie wasn't around, Jamal and Andre would have cracked under Lucious' heel.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Cookie does have quite a temper. Anybody (usually Lucious) can piss her off.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Cookie has her problems and bad traits, but she ultimately proves to genuinely love her sons and has some standards she won't step over, unlike Lucious.
  • Justified Criminal: She ran the drugs that financed Lucious' early career, and it was her money that started Empire Records.
  • Lady Macbeth: She did all the groundwork to get Empire Records up and running, which she will not let Lucious forget.
  • Mama Bear: Do not harm her sons. You have been warned.
    • Diana Dubois learned this the hard way.
  • Missing Mom: Being locked up for 17 years means she missed the majority of her sons' childhood, especially with Hakeem, since he was a baby at the time and she's practically a stranger to him now (though his hostility doesn't help).
  • The Missus and the Ex: Was divorced to Lucious during her stint in prison, and came out to discover him in a relationship with Anika through most of Season 1.
  • Morality Pet: ZigZagged. Cookie is probably the sole person Lucious genuinely respects, but that doesn't mean he won't use her to get what he wants.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: See Lucious' part. Cookie blames herself for supplying the All Girls Want Bad Boys part and the love of the drama. The volatility of Cookie and Lucious' relationship became a template for that of Hakeem and Tiana and it almost lead to Cookie's granddaughter blowing her brains out.
  • My Beloved Smother: Shows signs of this after taking over as Jamal's manager. Season 2 shows she's pretty much like this to all her sons. Even Andre.
  • My Greatest Failure: Her absence in her three sons' lives. It's basically became her mantra to say the least.
  • The Nicknamer: Most famously calls Anika "Boo Boo Kitty" but occasionally gives other characters snarky names, like "Yoko Ono" to Camilla.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Of Eleanor Of Aquitaine fitting into the whole The Lion in Winter in a record label thing.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: She gives Hakeem one after he calls her a bitch.
  • Odd Name Out: Her sisters names are Candance and Carol while her name is Loretha.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Season 2 reveals her name to be Loretha Holloway.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Had always known Jamal was gay and had to defend him from Lucious' violent outburst when he found out.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Played for Laughs. She loves snarking with stereotypes.
  • Pretty in Mink: She rocks her fur coats, from a white mink coat when released from prison, to a lynx coat when she comes to reclaim her company.
  • Redemption Quest: She wants to reconnect with her sons after a long time in prison.
    Cookie: (to Lucious) I went away for a long time for you to build all of this. I missed my sons growing up. I'm gonna make some things right.
  • Sassy Black Woman: This woman could cause a scene standing alone in an empty room. What keeps her from being a caricature is the fact that she does show emotional depth, particularly when it comes to her sons and late cousin.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Develops an attraction to security guard Malcolm, who always seems to be there to save her.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Cookie becomes the Lacerated Lacey type when she is forced to testify in court against Frank Gathers for the murder of a federal agent while she was selling cocaine.
  • Vorpal Pillow: She attempts this on Lucious who, via talking in his sleep, admits to his sole involvement in her late cousin's murder.

    Andre Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/1d6dba54053d7a578558dd10597a1f05.jpg
Played by: Trai Byers

The eldest Lyon son who lacks musical talent but is a shrewd businessman and Chief Financial Officer of Empire. His bipolar disorder causes him to switch between being The Dutiful Son who's content with his role in the company and a Green-Eyed Monster who resents being written off as a pencil pusher and is determined to sabotage his musically-gifted brothers so that he himself can run Empire. Is married to Rhonda.


  • The Alibi: Andre invokes this whenever he needs to cover his father.
    Andre: I cover for him, even when I don't know what I'm covering.
  • Aloof Big Brother: At times, he can be distant and/or insulting towards his brothers. He also has no qualms about playing them off one another to get what he wants, even if it ends up hurting one of them. This is later subverted in Season 2, as he becomes a more supportive older brother to both Hakeem and Jamal, and even sincerely asks them to attend his baptism. Much of this is a result of his newfound faith.
  • Ax-Crazy: Andre has been prone to be this due to his Bipolar Disorder that he suffers from which can make him violent to the point of almost killing someone. But after his time in prison he has fully embraced this side of himself to where he becomes unpredictable and ruthless.
  • Batman Gambit: Is fond of attempting these, but he's not nearly as good of a judge of character as he thinks, so they don't always tend to pan out in his favor.
  • Big "NO!": He does this in the season 2 finale when it looks like either Anika or Rhonda falls off the balcony after their brawl.
  • Black and Nerdy: He is black and the CFO of Empire.
  • Blackmail: Semi-subverted. In his bipolar state, Andre lets Lucious know that he's aware of the latter's sole involvement in Bunkie's murder.
    Andre: Piece of business advice from that Wharton education you paid so handsomely for—you pick the one who knows you're a murderer!
  • Beard of Sorrow: He grows one during his psychiatric stay (it's likely that he wasn't allowed near any razors). Once he gets out, he's back to his clean-cut self.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Is close with both Jamal and Hakeem despite plotting against them.
  • Boring, but Practical: Is an accountant rather than a musician. Lucious believes this makes him unfit to run Empire, but Andre seeks to prove him wrong.
  • Bungled Suicide: Tries to shoot himself at the end of "The Lyon's Roar," but the gun jams.
  • Can't Take Criticism
  • Character Development: Over the course of the first season, he slowly begins to break down: his marriage isn't as picture-perfect as it seems, while his desire to run Empire, envy at his brothers, and refusal to take his meds result in a near suicide attempt and an eventual meltdown that lead to his hospitalization. After his hospitalization, he finds religion.
  • The Chessmaster: Though not as competent as some examples, it seems him and Rhonda are always setting something up to pit people against one another.
  • Dark Secret: Subverted. At first, it appears that only Rhonda and Vernon know he's bipolar. It is then revealed that everyone except Cookie knows, with Lucious treating it with Selective Obliviousness.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: He has this moment in "Unto the Breach" with his brothers in the elevator.
    Andre: I made Empire! 8:00 to 10:00! 8:00 to 10:00! 8:00 to 10:00! Every day!
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The responsible to Hakeem's foolish.
  • Good with Numbers: Andre handles all of Empire's financial issues.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Envies his brothers' musical talent since he believes this makes him The Unfavorite in his father's eyes. This becomes slightly worse when Jamal is nominated as Lucious' successor, and runs the company in his stead, when the latter is in prison. Andre makes it a point to make things difficult for him.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: His biggest issue as he's shown to be quite the loose cannon when he gets angry.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Despite his manipulative tendencies, there is still good in him. Even when having an episode, tapping into his good graces and fond memories can calm him down, as evidenced when it happened at a time where he and his brothers were stuck in an elevator and he nearly beats Hakeem with both his brothers reminding him of their times as children causes him to calm down considerably.
  • Iconic Outfit: His black tailored suit.
  • Imaginary Friend: How Diana Dubois gets to him. She has Andre's therapist give him drugs that make him hallucinate.
  • Irony: Despite him being the most intelligent of the Lyon brothers, Lucious finds manipulating him to be the least difficult.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Attended the University of Pennsylvania. However, unlike many examples, Andre is shown to be very intelligent and excellent at mathematics and finance. He's also been handling Empire's accounting for several years at the beginning of the series.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Apparently, he doesn't know that Lola is his half-sister because his father slept with his former sister-in-law. Due to his condition at the time, it's probably for the best.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • He set up Jamal to be mugged by Hakeem's hoodlum friends, while pinning the blame on Hakeem.
    • Tries to get himself voted in as interim CEO, so that if Lucious doesn't pick him as the head of Empire, he can easily oust whoever is picked.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Despite being the oldest child, he fits the trope description much better compared to Jamal.
  • Mood-Swinger: Whether he's The Dutiful Son/big brother or the Green-Eyed Monster depends on how faithfully he's taking his meds. He has a particularly bad episode after learning of his father's ALS. It begins with him throwing a tantrum in front of the family and ends with him at home hyperventilating in a Shower of Angst. Rhonda is aware of this and tries every method she can think of to make Andre take his medication.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Of Russell Simmons, in that he's deeply involved in the hip-hop industry despite not being a musician himself.
    • Also of Geoffrey Plantagenet, fitting in with the The Lion in Winter in a record label thing.
  • No Medication for Me: After his father tells him he'll never inherit the empire.
  • Not So Different: Andre does share some traits with his father Lucious, such as being a Smug Snake.
  • Oh, Crap!: Has this moment after overhearing Agent Harlow Carter's conversation with another agent, saying they need Vernon as he is the star witness to Lucious's involvement in Bunkie's death. Reminder, a pregnant Rhonda killed Vernon in self-defense.
  • Promotion to Parent: With one locked up for the majority of his life and the other busy building his musical career and record label, this hit Andre in a big way and is yet another factor in his feeling as though he'd be best to run Empire. This also contributes to his alienation within the family. He doesn't feel like a brother to Jamal and Hakeem, and Lucious has a hard time seeing him as his son. He exists in this strange generational limbo where he is neither one of the "kids," nor is he one of the adults.
  • Rags to Riches: Andre says that a lot of people assume he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but as the oldest Lyon son, he spent most of his adolescence in West Philadelphia and remembers having to eat Pop-Tarts for dinner since there was nothing else in the house.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: He finds God in the last two episodes of Season 1.
  • Sanity Slippage: After the death of Rhonda, Andre hallucinates a ghost of her. Jamal and the others have also caught Andre hallucinating many times. Then again, Andre is suffering from Bipolar disorder, so it’s not entirely his fault.
  • Secret Keeper: Has proven at a young age that he's great at keeping secrets, and helps hide his father's crimes.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: There's not a single episode where he's not wearing a suit.
  • Stepford Smiler: Of the unstable variety. On the outside, he seems to be the most put-together: he's handsome, Ivy League educated, has a trophy wife, and has an executive position in the company. Secretly, however, he is bipolar. It has only gotten worse since Lucious started his game of There Can Only Be One. His power plays have started to strain his marriage, and being overlooked by his family is driving him literally insane, not helped by his bad habit of skipping his pills.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: After many times to go straight and following his experience of everyday police brutality against black people, Andre realizes this. He even lampshades this trope to Nessa as his rationale for for hacking Empire on purpose to gain more power from Lucious.
    Andre:No matter how much I try and play by the rules, the world’s always going to see me as a well-dressed thug, son of a gangster. So if that's the way the world sees me...
  • Third-Person Person: When he's having a mental breakdown, he slips into this. The audience becomes aware of it as it's relayed from another character, but the first time we see if for ourselves, it's jarring, to say the least.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Andre becomes a nicer and moral person after finding religion.
  • Unstoppable Rage: As if his sanity isn't bad enough when the man gets angry he goes full on rage mode.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He has this hard. It can be argued that he has this harder than either of his brothers and eventually it leads to him planning his father's assassination.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He chokes Anika when he confronts her about pushing Rhonda down a flight of stairs to induce a miscarriage.
  • Your Cheating Heart: In Season 1, he seduces an assistant district attorney in order to help his father. It's also implied that he and Rhonda had other affairs with other people, but both were seemingly okay with it. In "True Love Never," he finds himself tempted to sleep with the same assistant district attorney to help Empire, but instead he blackmails the woman.
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    Jamal Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/9a07e50ca5fb87bdcd7b661ad26f0aa5.jpg
Played by: Jussie Smollett

The Lyons' middle son, an aspiring R&B singer. At the start of the series, he's openly gay with his family and friends, creating tension (to say the least) with the homophobic Lucious, but is closeted in the public eye, creating tension with his boyfriend Michael. With Cookie as his manager, he is determined to make his own way without his father's influence.


  • Amicable Exes: With Olivia.
  • Badass Gay: Jamal, a gay man, is capable of taking care of himself. Hakeem learned this the hard way when he confronted Jamal.
  • Bait the Dog: Jamal for all of Season 1 was the Nice Guy in the Lyon family, and out of all the crap he went through from his father Lucious over his sexuality, at least seemed the most deserving to run Empire. Which eventually happens at the season one finale. Come the season 2 premiere, however, his running of Empire has him effectively cut off his family (save for Lucious), insult the people working for him, and blow off a GLAAD appearance that that the ex-boyfriend he's supposed to be mending his relationship with worked very hard to put together.
  • Bald, Black Leader Guy: Lucious named him as his successor to run Empire near the end of Season 1.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jamal is generally a nice, reasonable person but can be violent when pushed to far.
  • Bi the Way: Subverted. He has a one-time fling with female pop singer Skye Summers, and Lucious is a little too quick to celebrate his son being "fixed". However, Jamal and Skye discuss what happened between them, and it's clear that while he's able to have sex with a woman (which he's done before), he can't form a romantic bond with one, hence why he identifies as gay. They part on good terms, but unfortunately the story moves on before Lucious could learn this valuable lesson (but then again, he'd probably just go back to thinking being gay is a choice).
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Does this verbally and musically (TWICE!) to Lucious.
  • Character Development: Jamal stands up to his homophobic father and comes out the closet, comes into being a father himself, and starts dating a man who helps him grow.
  • Chick Magnet: An interviewer in Season 2 commented that many women are fawning over him.
  • The Chosen One: He becomes Lucious' successor.
  • Coming-Out Story: With a little encouragement from his new love interest Ryan, and ironically Lucious himself, Jamal comes out during his father's White Party to an overwhelmingly positive reaction (from everyone except Lucious, that is).
  • Cool Big Bro: He's a good and caring big brother to Hakeem.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: He changes his father's Signature Song for his own Coming-Out Story.
    Jamal: Now this the kinda song that makes a man love a man.
  • Disappeared Dad: Olivia believes him to be this to her daughter. However, it is later revealed that Lucious is Lola's biological father while Jamal is actually her half-brother.
  • Dude Magnet: He seems to have quite a number of men who can't seem to resist him either.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: The same interviewer (see Chick Magnet) also commented that a lot of men have been fawning over him.
  • Evil Costume Switch: He had a pretty casual style in his downtime, and wore flowing garments and scarves when performing at first. After Lucious picks him to be his heir, he starts wearing high-class suits and vests, and is in a do-rag during his next show.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • In the Season 1 finale, he is selected to be Lucious' heir. After having a singing duel with his father, in which he finally earns his respect, he agrees to the proposition. In the next scene, he's literally threatening to throw Barretti off a building. Cue Evil Costume Switch, and losing the trust of his brothers and his mom, for the favor of his father, who by this point just about everyone agrees Lucious is the Devil.
    • This becomes even more pronounced in the second season premiere, where he's completely isolated from his mother and brothers, treats Becky more like a maid than an intern, and begins to adopt the mindset that money can solve everything. Tellingly, he regularly visits Lucious in jail to see his advice on how to run the company.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Along with Andre the responsible to Hakeem's foolish.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Jamal is a genuinely nice person, but he has stood up to people who have pointed a gun in his face and is not afraid to resort to violence.
  • The Heart: Clearly the most sensitive and the nicest of the Lyons.
  • Like Father, Like Son: The inherent irony in his character. He has the most hostile relationship with Lucious, but that's partially because he is the most like him. Both grew up under shitty circumstances, but refused to be a victim and because of their combative natures they constantly clash with eachother. Hakeem might emulate Lucious' outside persona of a hardcore gangsta, but Jamal reflects Lucious' actual inner self. Jamal is a sensitive guy, but when Tariq insults Cookie around the dinner table, it's Jamal who is ready to knock him the fuck out. The difference is that Jamal is loyal to those close to him, whereas Lucious tends to toss people under the bus.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: When Olivia reappears in his life with Lola, he's unsure if Lola is actually his, though he loves her anyway. She's not. She's his father's.
    • It turns out Lola isn't Lucious' either. The father is a completely different man.
  • Momma's Boy: Of the three Lyon boys, he's the closest with Cookie. For a while this becomes subverted in Season 2. They're as close as ever in season 3, though.
  • Nice Guy: Practically the only Lyon member with a working conscience. Up until his Face–Heel Turn, that is. Over the course of Season 2, he slowly but surely returns to this.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • His sexuality and musical style is similar to Frank Ocean. His higher-pitched voice, smooth R&B sound, stylish clothing, and shaved head/facial hair combo are also reminiscent of Usher.
    • Of Richard the Lionheart, fitting into the The Lion in Winter in a record label thing.
  • Only Sane Man: The most rational and sane of the Lyon family.
  • Parental Favoritism: It's more subtle, but even though Cookie loves all her sons unconditionally, Jamal is clearly her favourite.
  • Preserve Your Gays: He gets shot but survives.
  • Riches to Rags: The series starts off with Jamal and Michael living in a lavish apartment that Lucious is paying for, and Lucious threatens to cut Jamal off if he comes out to the press. Jamal later decides to strike out on his own without his father's money, moving into a cramped ghetto apartment in Bushwick and working with a local recording studio. He was still closeted at this point, however, which eventually led to Michael leaving him.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: A male example. He has empathy and is gentle, but when pushed he is dangerous. Everytime Lucious' pushed him, Jamal's made him pay for it in the long run.
  • Singer-Songwriter: Though his pride makes him reluctant to let others write his music.
  • Song Parody: On the receiving end of this in season 2 after Lucious leaked his brief affair with Skye: "Flip Flip" to the tune of Hakeem's "Drip Drop",with Becky pointing out that isn't even Jamal's song.
  • Straight Gay: Despite trying on his mother's clothes as a child, he displays no Camp Gay mannerisms as an adult. Then again, it is heavily implied that Lucious literally beat him out of those mannerisms. Michael notes that Jamal feels uncomfortable around people displaying Camp Gay traits, and pretty much blows off an appearance at a GLAAD awards ceremony, which Michael put together, because of it.
  • Taking the Bullet: Despite their heated exchange earlier in the episode "Rise by Sin", Jamal takes a bullet for Lucious at the American Sound Awards when Freda Getz attempts to shoot Lucious when she finds out about his role in her father's death.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jamal comes to stand up to his homophobic father. Later on, he threatened to throw Barretti of a balcony.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The stress of running Empire in Lucious' stead and dealing with his family that he knows is plotting against him has caused him to become very abrasive in personality, even to people who did nothing to deserve it (even Lucious is normally civil to the people working for him). The others do not mince words commenting on this. Later in Season 2, Jamal takes a level in kindness, and reconciles with Cookie, along with his siblings partly over learning of Rhonda's pregnancy. He listens to the advice of Becky, telling her that that the conflict between Lucious and Cookie doesn't have to define him, even if they are on competing labels. The advice even ends up improving his music, as he learns to take the best of both his parents' styles. Jamal still remains business-minded, he just decided not to be too much of an ass about it.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe. Jamal's inspiration seems to be fueled by turbulence in his personal life. In season one, some of his best songs are written as a response to the turmoil from growing up with a homophobic, abusive father. This continues in season two, where he only starts seriously making music when the tensions between him and the rest of the family come to a boil.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Deconstructed. Jamal wants his father's love and thought being good at music would do that. He did finally get it in the Season 1 finale, but at the expense of his mother and brothers' trust.

    Hakeem Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/b8b960282f75dbe81b92d93a29923221.jpg
Played by: Bryshere "Yazz" Gray

The youngest son, Hakeem is a womanizing playboy who aspires to be a rapper like his father. He is Lucious' favorite son, but Hakeem resents living in his shadow. This doesn't stop him from spending his dad's money like water and being more concerned with fame and glamour than the hard work to earn it.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. All the girls do find themselves drawn to him like moths to a flame, but past the bad boy persona, he's actually a nice guy, if a bit selfish.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: The youngest child and appropriately the most reckless and immature. He wants to prove himself a man to his father, but is quick to run to his older brothers to bail him out. He was also too young to remember his mother before she got locked up for 17 years and has no respect for her.
  • Big Brother Worship: Hakeem greatly admires Jamal. Averted with Andre since he doesn't appreciate his manipulative nature, but does love him. His respect for Jamal deteriorates after Lucious names Jamal the heir of Empire.
  • Bratty Teenage Son: Lucious gave him anything he wanted, which resulted in Hakeem's inflated ego and his (initial) disrespect towards Cookie.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: He's actually a really good rapper when he applies himself, though getting him to apply himself is the biggest struggle. He has also proven to be quite street-smart.
  • The Casanova: He has hooked up with the most girls in the Lyon family. The most he can recall the names of, anyway. Lucious still has him beat, though.
  • Character Development: Hakeem starts being more forward with his music, starts to make amends with his mother, and gets serious with Camilla. In season 2, Hakeem becomes more mature, smarter and thoughtful, due to being with Cookie in Lyon Dynasty.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: While Hakeem loves being with the ladies, he will not be with one if she doesn't want to be with him.
  • Cool Uncle: To Lola. Actually a Cool Big Bro since she's his paternal half-sister.
  • Dirty Coward: As mentioned, Hakeem wants to prove time and time again that he's a "man," but when he is confronted with problems that he's scared to tackle head on like a man, he runs with his tail between his legs.
  • Entitled Bastard: Due to him being spoiled when he grew up.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The foolish to Andre's and Jamal's responsible.
  • Freudian Excuse: His intense hatred for Cookie is due to him growing up while she was in jail for 17 years.
  • Hypocrite: Tiana calls him out on this when he gets upset at her for having a girlfriend on the side even though he does too.
  • Genius Ditz: He lacks common sense, and has very poor tact, but he's a very talented rapper, quick on his feet, and as Season 2 demonstrates a capable leader of a music band and record label when he wants to be.
  • Heroic BSoD: Has this in "A High Hope for a Low Heaven" after his tumultuous kidnapping. Luckily, it's lasts for only one episode.
  • Heroic Build: He is in very good shape.
  • Hidden Depths: He really does.
  • Irony: The hot-headed kid who is often criticized for being selfish, turns out to become a wonderful, devoted father. Definitely a better parent than the child's mother.
  • Hot-Blooded: He has shown to be reckless, impulsive, and can get very riled up when he wants to be.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be quite an ass, but at the end of the day, his heart is in the right place.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • In the Season 2 premiere, he calls out his mother for arranging a "Free Lucious Lyon" concert, as he is guilty of the crime he was incarcerated for, namely Bunkie's murder, and says that they should instead perform for those unfairly imprisoned by the justice system. Cookie eventually concedes he has a point, but moves ahead anyway as part of the hostile takeover scheme.
    • He rightfully calls out Lucious and Jamal for putting up the facade of the perfect family, even though they are the farthest thing from.
  • Ladykiller in Love: With Laura in Season 2.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Is ultimately the most similar to his mom. His resentment at her not being in his life is similar to Cookie's resentment of Lucious for not visiting her while she's in prison. His Hot-Blooded temper is very similar to Cookie's as well. That being said, Hakeem shares his mother's positive qualities as well, such as fighting tooth and nail for his child, the way Cookie does for her sons.
  • Likes Older Women: His secret lover is Camilla, a fashion designer twice his age. He even calls her "Mama" during sex. He also hooks up with Anika near the end of Season 1.
  • Manchild: Despite being an adult, Hakeem still retains an attitude of a Spoiled Brat throughout most of Season 1. It slowly fades away.
  • Mommy Issues: Has a lot of resentment for Cookie being in jail most of his life.
  • Mr. Fanservice: His physique is often highlighted, and he gets a lot of Shirtless Scenes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Of Chris Brown, despite being a rapper rather than a singer. This isn't even remotely subtle. He could also be seen somewhat as Justin Bieber expy, what with his controversial public urination, general diva tendencies, and the fact that he's still a kid.
    • Of King John of England fitting into the The Lion in Winter in a record label thing.
  • Oedipus Complex: He very canonically has a mommy kink until his relationship with Cookie warms.
  • Older Than They Look: Despite being a fully grown man, he is easily mistaken for a teenager.
  • Reassignment Backfire: With Camilla through Mimi owning most of the shares of Empire, she stands down and appoints Hakeem as CEO of Empire in her stead, while she guides him from the background. However, he also wants to prove himself as a worthy owner of Empire without help, and win back the trust of his family. So he conspires with the rest of Lyons (sans Lucious) to get rid of Camilla, and manipulates the latter to restart their affair, and create a sex tape without Camilla's knowledge to send to Mimi Whiteman. A heartbroken Mimi out of spite sells all her shares within the company, and Camilla kills herself, leaving him in control the company, his own man, and in better standings with his family (even Lucious!). Apart from losing a woman who was by his own admission important in his life, this was mostly a win-win, and as Lucious is quick to note - a leaf straight out of his playbook.
  • Song Parody: A group of flash-mob protestors dressed in suits and armed with flip-flops turn Hakeem's "Drip Drop" song into "Flip Flop" to condemn Jamal for ostensibly "flip-flopping" on his sexuality to have an affair with Skye.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: About 80% of his wardrobe are sleeveless.
  • Spoiled Brat: Was given anything he wanted, which is lampshaded by Cookie and Jamal.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the Season 1 finale, he gives his own verbal smackdown of his father.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Starts to warm up to Cookie and treat her with more respect.
    • His attraction to Laura has him respect her space when she asks for it, and doesn't try anything that would her uncomfortable. Compare this with Tiana, who after meeting her, felt entitled to have her simply because she had his attention.
  • Verbal Tic: You can tell he's upset when he starts drawing out his woooooooords.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Hakeem wants Lucious to see him as a man. When he meets Laura's parents, her father tells Hakeem of the pride he has of his daughter and that there's no greater joy than a child surpassing their parent. Hakeem is bemused, as he spent his entire life under Lucious' shadow, and is now struggling to make onto his own, with him totally at odds with his father.
  • Worthy Opponent: He earns this title from Lucious in "More Than Kin" for standing up to him when the former found out he was threatning Anika.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: In "The Tameness of a Wolf", Lucious expresses how proud he is of Hakeem for getting rid of Camilla the way he did to ensure control of the company, outright saying he "killed" her. Hakeem insists that's not what he did, and that he never intended for Camilla to be driven to a murder-suicide.

    Rhonda Lyon 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/be3e6d7480658f808622384ed7f760df.jpg
Played by: Kaitlin Doubleday

Andre's wife. She works as a fashion editor and is every bit as manipulative as he is.


  • Ambiguously Bi: in "The Lyon's Roar," Andre mentions that the wife of a rich man he needs to schmooze likes women, and Rhonda seems okay with the idea.
  • Berserk Button: Do not assume that she's some spoiled socialite who didn't work hard to earn her accomplishments.
  • Cynical Atheism: After Rhonda falls from the stairs of her mansion, she begs God to save her unborn child even if she has to give her life for it. She ends up miscarrying the child. After talking to Andre in the hospital of what she remembers from that night, she tearfully confesses to him that she can no longer believe in a God that would allow something like that to happen.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Admittedly, she had no problem with her and Andre's "games" until she had to seduce a man who physically repulsed her.
  • The Fashionista: It's literally her job.
  • Femme Fatale: Eventually deconstructed, as using sex as a weapon ends up making her feel used and sickened.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite the fact that both she and her husband are power-hungry, Rhonda truly is in love with him and committed to keeping him cared for properly. She's by far the most accepting member of the family with Andre's bipolar disorder, and attempts to mitigate his habit of skipping pills as best she can.
  • Killed Off for Real: In the season 3 premiere, it is revealed that she is the one who fell off the balcony and not Anika.
  • Lady Macbeth: She is Andre's driving force, pushing him to earn his father's respect as well as hers. She outed Tiana as bisexual in an attempt to humiliate Hakeem, helped set up Jamal getting robbed at gunpoint by Hakeem's friends, and effortlessly talks to Andre in code over the phone about their schemes. That being said, she genuinely loves her husband and wouldn't do anything to put him in danger.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Her clothes can be quite revealing.
  • Nerves of Steel
  • Rags to Riches: When Lucious implies that she was born into privilege, Rhonda blows up on him and says that she came from nothing and had to fight for everything she has.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When she figures out that Anika pushed her down the stairs to induce her miscarriage, she charges straight for her every chance she gets, quite literally trying to kill her. This culminates in the season 2 finale, where the two are struggling on a rooftop and it looks like someone fell off.
  • Secret Keeper: Subverted. It was initially implied that Rhonda was one of two people who knew about Andre's bipolar disorder. It is later revealed that Lucious, Jamal, and Hakeem knew about it as well but kept quiet under Lucious' order.
  • The Spock
  • Token White: The only white person in the main cast.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The fallout from Andre's latest breakdown, her pregnancy, and the stress of having to deal with the accidental murder of Vernon Turner, had made her at least attempt to be more amicable to her in-laws, if only for Andre's sake. Seems to have paid off since even Lucious has come to see as part of the family (at least as far as her pregnancy), instead of Andre's white trophy wife. There's also the fact that she's recently experienced a series of misfortunes which have made her increasingly emotionally vulnerable, especially her miscarriage.

    Marcus "Bunkie" Williams 
Played by: Antoine McKay

Lucious' bodyguard and close friend, and Cookie's cousin. Lucious kills him when he tries to blackmail him for more money.


  • Comic Relief: Not laugh-out-loud funny, but his scenes tended to be more lighthearted. Until he's killed.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Symbolically to Jamal as the latter said "Bunkie had no problem with me", strongly implying his homosexuality was no big deal to him.
  • Posthumous Character: He still appears in flashbacks, to say nothing of when his dead body washed ashore.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Is murdered by Lucious at the end of the first episode. Unlike most examples of this, Bunkie's death resonates through the first season. Cookie is heartbroken that her cousin is dead, while Lucious keeps the fact that he murdered him a closely-guarded secret.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Was it really the best idea to blackmail a man that you know is capable of killing in cold blood?
  • Walking Spoiler: It's hard to discuss his character without spoiling the fact that his murder is the show's first big shocker.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Like Lucious told him just before shooting him, "I never let anything come between us. Except a bullet.
  • You Are Fat: His cousin Cookie took his burger from him, telling him to "hop on the treadmill." He takes it in stride.

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The musicians and business people who make up the company, and find themselves caught up in the Lyon family's schemes.

    Anika Calhoun 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/4780599eafe1947ead71f049af1aca93.jpg
Played by: Grace Gealey

Lucious' current lover and the head of A&R. She takes an instant dislike of Cookie for obvious reasons.


  • Berserk Button: Cookie is one for her. Even mentioning her positively.
  • Beyond Redemption: Pushes Rhonda down the stairs in order to induce a miscarriage. Applies in-universe as well, since the characters treat it as the vile action it is: Rhonda literally tries to kill her when she figures it out, no one else believes Rhonda because it's so shocking and even Cookie doesn't believe Anika is that evil (although time will tell), and Lucious seems to believe Rhonda privately and tells Anika so—no telling what he's planning after Anika gives birth. Andre confronts her about this in season 3 and he is PISSED.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Practically every "bitch" trope applies to her, such as making nice with Elle just so she could spike her drink and make her too intoxicated to perform at the big investor showcase. Since Elle's recovery is Cookie's pet project, it was all an attempt to make a fool out of her.
  • Bi the Way: In the Season 2 premiere, she slept with Mimi on Cookie's orders.
  • Break the Haughty: After the failed coup against Lucious, Anika has spent most of Season 2 so far begging Cookie to give her a job at Lyon Dynasty, since Lucious' influence means she literally can't get a job anywhere else.
  • But Not Too Black: While the Lyon family are all pretty fair-skinned themselves, Anika takes the cake and Cookie is quick to call her on it. Turns out she's mixed (white father, black mother).
  • Didn't Think This Through: After selling out to Barretti, Lucious reminds her that her father signed a "clean" bill of health for a key man policy and if she spills Lucious's secrets, her father will be convicted of fraud.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: She was reasonably pissed when she finds out that Lucious made her father sign a "clean" bill of health for the key man policy.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The real reason she hates Cookie is because Cookie is still in love with Lucious, and as time goes by, it becomes clear that he still holds a torch for her as well. Then she secretly saw them having sex.
    • Begins to develop this for Laura when Hakeem gets into a relationship with her.
  • In-Series Nickname: Cookie loves to call her "Boo-Boo Kitty."
  • Ironic Echo: In the long-awaited catfight with Cookie, she echoes the nickname the latter always call her:
    Anika: Who's Boo-Boo Kitty now, bitch?
  • Jerkass: She's a snake, a horrible friend, and an all-around conniving bitch.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: She rightly criticizes Hakeem for trying to rally up a protest to get their daughter back.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: She does this by pretending to be nice to everyone, but really she's doing it to cover up her devious side in which she exposes later anyway.
  • Karmic Death:She killed Andre's wife and unborn child, so Andre ends up drugging her and indirectly killing her from it. Her drink gets spiked and she ends up jumping off a building. Oops.
  • Lady Macbeth: Becomes one to Hakeem by the end of Season 1.
  • Maternally Challenged: It's telling that she wants sole custody of Bella, but made absolutely no effort to get to know her, even when her and Hakeem were friendly.
  • Never My Fault: Whenever Anika gets caught doing sneaky things, she tries so hard to play the victim or act like she has no clue about certain situations.
  • Passive Aggressive Combat: Her preferred method of fighting with Cookie.
  • Phrase Catcher: "What is she doing here?". Always by Cookie.
  • Rich Bitch: She's a debutante.
  • Smug Snake: She's a snake, and her flaw is thinking that nobody will find out about her devious ways.
  • Tranquil Fury: She refuses to lose her cool with Cookie. It doesn't last, however.
  • Woman Scorned: And how!
    Anika: I'm a debutante. Do you know what that means? It means I can cut your throat without messing up my pearls.
  • Yandere:
    • Becomes increasingly jealous of Laura after Hakeem falls in love with her. In her apartment, she even cut out photos of newspaper articles featuring the two together, scrawling "LIES" in black marker, and impersonates Hakeem's cab driver at one point when to find out where Laura lives. Not helping is her fall from grace, and the discovery that she's pregnant.
    • Her jealousy extends to Rhonda when she becomes pregnant. Taking note how Lucious, who previously treated her coldly now treats like a member of the family for bearing his grandchild. Rhonda told her about how he comes over to her house to visit regularly, buying her and Andre a mansion and even referring to his unborn grandchild as his heir. With every new development Anika's envy grows.

    Vernon Turner 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/malik_yoba_vernon_turner_instagram_screenshot.jpg
Played by: Malik Yoba

Lucious' best friend and business partner.


  • The Dragon: Seems to be this for Andre.
  • Due to the Dead: Given two when his body is dug up by Andre and Rhonda with the surprising help of Lucious and Thirsty. Andre gives him a fifty-nine word eulogy, from apologizing for the events that transpired to genuinely wishing he could've changed what happened and acknowledging it was his influence that made Andre the man he is today. Lucious' six-word eulogy given in privacy was a different story.
    Lucious: You rot in hell, you snitch!
  • Hidden Depths: An episode reveals him to be a former addict. He's also shown to be supportive when Jamal comes out publicly.
  • Off the Wagon: Gradually over the course of Season 1. The stress of having to deal with covering up Lucious' involvement with Bunkie's murder and assisting in Andre's power plays had eventually got to him, and he started using cocaine again. He goes into rehab shortly after, and is released in the Season 1 finale only to be murdered.
  • Parental Substitute: He basically raised the boys after Cookie went to prison.
  • Secret Keeper: Revealed posthumously that he was aware that Lucious' mother is still alive, and that he was tasked with going to the nursing home where she resided to pay hush money to prevent anyone there mentioning the relation between her and Lucious.
  • So Proud of You: He doesn't say the words, but his clapping and the look on his face after Jamal comes out via a song, says it all.
  • The Stool Pigeon: It's revealed in the season 1, he snitched on Lucious for his role in Bunkie's murder.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the Season 1 finale, it was ambiguous whether or not he died when Rhonda struck him. Season 2 confirms that Rhonda did indeed kill him, and Andre helped her hide his corpse to prevent the authorities from finding out.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: While "hero" is debatable, Vernon does not take kindly to being left out the loop about Bunkie's murder.

    Tiana Brown 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tumblr_ni90zmtsn91u4yki8o1_400.jpg
Played by: Serayah McNiell

A young pop singer signed to Empire Records who quickly takes a liking to Hakeem.


  • Bi the Way: Has a girlfriend on the side.
  • Expy: Of Rihanna. She dates the show's blatant Chris Brown Expy and puts on a subtle Caribbean accent when she performs.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Laura. She accuses her of trying to upstage her when they headline the same tour, though it's likely that those accusations stem from her jealousy of her as Hakeem's girlfriend.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A given due to her being a popstar. During her songs, she wears skimpy clothing and dances provocatively.
  • Polyamory: In season 3 she's in a relationship with both Hakeem and Tory Ash.

    Becky Williams 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/8991bc3fa564d672dfcf78ab45204b51.jpg
Played by: Gabourey Sidibe

Lucious' secretary.


  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Wears a blonde weave.
  • Fag Hag: Is close with Jamal, loves hanging with gay men, and even bragged about getting into a bathhouse once:
    Becky: I told them I was pre-op and they didn't want to check!
  • Fangirl: For Titan. She completely loses her shit when Lucious gives her Hakeem's backstage passes to his show. It was primarily to punish Hakeem for being unmotivated, but she hardly cared about the details.
  • No Indoor Voice: If anyone with this comes across her, she'll "calmly" remind you to be a subversion.
    Becky: You use your inside voice when you talk to Becky.
  • Only Sane Employee: Pretty much considering the family she's working for.
  • Sassy Black Woman: While she doesn't act in a stereotypical "black" manner, she does not hesitate to speak her mind.
  • Secret Keeper: Accidentally finds out about Lucious' illness. He swears her to secrecy.

    Porsha Taylor 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/porsha_empire.jpg
Played by: Ta'Rhonda Jones

Cookie's assistant. Cookie wasn't in a position to be picky.


  • Butt-Monkey: As Cookie's sounding board.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She always has a snappy remark about the situation at hand, which sometimes rubs Cookie the wrong way.
  • Fake Defector: Anika tried paying her to spy on Cookie, but Porsha took the opportunity to spy on Anika for Cookie instead. Thus, Porsha was able to warn Cookie, who in turn warned Lucious, about Anika selling out to Barretti.
  • George Jetson Job Security: She was reasonably fired by Cookie for getting her arrested into the hands of Roxanne Ford but was rehired the next episode.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Subverted.
    Porsha: What, touching on each other? That's nasty.
  • Sidekick: For Cookie.
  • Undying Loyalty: See Fake Defector above.
  • Unfazed Everyman: She is essentially an average young woman thrust into the Lyons' world.

    Elle Dallas 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/courtney_love.png
Played by: Courtney Love

Empire Records' first non-hip-hop artist and one of their earliest successes. Unfortunately, she hasn't put out a hit in years and is on the verge of being dropped before Cookie takes her as her personal project.


    Malcolm Deveaux 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/malcom.jpg
Played by: Derek Luke

Head of security at Empire Entertainment. He is also the love interest for Cookie.


    Mimi Whiteman 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/empire201_mimi_whiteman_200x300.jpg
Played by: Marisa Tomei

A businesswoman who buys a controlling interest in Empire.


  • Affably Evil: Mimi seems like like a fun gal to be around, and is almost always pretty chipper.
  • Bi the Way: She makes out with Lucious in "True Love Never" and nearly engages in a threesome with him and another woman, advancing on the other woman after Lucious leaves to take care of some personal business.
  • The Chessmaster: Her relatively short time in Empire was to assist and observe Lucious' actions and find justifiable action to get him supplanted and take over. This implies that she didn't take the earlier chance to get Lucious removed as CEO because it didn't guarantee she'd be head of the company.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Uses a recording device disguised as a pen to capture Lucious' contemptuous rant against the board of directors over his moves to acquire Slipstream. With it, she calls a motion to remove Lucious as CEO, and take over in his stead. She wins.
  • Evil Pays Better: More or less, the reason she gave for not going through with the hostile takeover: She was offered $250 million for the deal, but she explains that Lucious gave her a better deal. What makes this even worse is that its implied that she'd already made up her mind that she was going to decide on Lucious as Lucious is Empire, and without him, it doesn't exist - but she allowed Cookie, Anika, Andre & Hakeem to humor her, up to having Anika sleep with her, just for the hell of it. Simply put, the takeover plan was never going to work solely because they picked Lucious Lyon as an opponent.
  • Has a Type: She seems to have a preference for black women.
  • Hidden Depths: Her apparent zest for life is as she explains having survived battling cancer, inspiring her to live as full a life as she can. However, it's implied she's in a turbulent relationship with her partner, which puts a rather harsher spin on her chipper demeanor. It's later revealed that she has a wife, who is none other than Camilla Marks (now Marks-Whiteman), the latter openly states to Hakeem that she only married her to part of her revenge plot. Unfortunately for her, Mimi tends to be very jealous and possessive, and when Camilla's affair with Hakeem is presented to her, she sells all her shares in Empire to spite Camilla, no longer having any interest in the company.
  • Killed Off for Real: She is murdered by her own wife Camilla off-screen during a Villainous Breakdown, who then proceeded to make her death look like suicide. Lucious exposes Camilla in short order.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: After she offered to take a controlling interest in Empire in the season 2 premiere, it was a matter of her deciding to go with Cookie's party or join Lucious' board of directors. She sides with Lucious.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: While almost always conservatively-dressed, it's always conventionally feminine.
  • Tragic Villain: No matter how you look at her actions, it was clear that she was being used by Camilla all along: After her exile, Camilla came across the wealthy Mimi, who was battling cancer, and married her at some point during the treatments. After her recovery, it's implied Camilla pressured her to purchase Empire and wrest control from Lucious, by playing on her desire to be loved. However, Camilla never truly loved her, and was using her to get closer to Hakeem and give him Empire to rule. When their affair was exposed to her, she sold all of her Empire stock, and later, Camilla poisoned her in revenge for all of her plans falling apart.
  • Your Cheating Heart: It's revealed that she has a partner, but Mimi frequently cheats on her with other women.

    Thurston "Thirsty" Rawlings 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/joker2.jpg
Played by: Andre Royo

Lucious' lawyer, and right-hand man for Season 2.


  • Affably Evil: Unlike his client Lucious, he's genuinely a genial and friendly guy. Although he's not above getting his hands dirty.
  • Amoral Attorney: It's worth noting that Lucious was granted bail because he discreetly gave the judge the alternative of having photos of his sex life released. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what he's arranged.
  • Blackmail: Not at all averse to this.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He makes sure to bring a corpse detector when he has Andre's car bugged, after the latter promised to have the charges against Lucious dropped. Rhonda lampshades this.
  • Dirty Business: When Lucious has lost patience with things not going his way, he's the guy to call. That he has even less scruples than Vernon is a bonus.
  • The Dragon: To Lucious.
  • Exact Words: When he drives journalist Harper Scott under a bridge at night after she blew the secret of the mother of Lucious still being alive at a nursing home. She suspects that Thirsty plans to murder her on the side of the road. Thirsty replies, "I resent that. I'm a gentleman. I wouldn't touch a hair on your head." Just as he unlocks the car and she thanks him and leaves, a group of thugs kidnap her as he drives off.
  • Honest Advisor: As his legal representative, he makes it a point to remind Lucious not to get into anything dodgy, at least not openly, if only because his case is still on.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Subverted. He claims to have graduated from the University of Guam. Which, interestingly, does not have a law school in real life.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: He's not really a big-shot lawyer, but he got Lucious to walk free for Bunkie's murder. He also takes care of Lucious' "problems" with ruthless efficiency.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He has, on many occasions, hired groups of thugs for break-ins, robberies, and roughing up people that are bugging Lucious. He almost always discounts murder. Not because he finds it unethical, but rather there's the likelihood of murders being tied to Lucious when a little "convincing" can achieve the same result with less hassle.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe. He's this to Andre, as Vernon who previously was Lucious' right-hand man and business partner had practically raised him and his brothers. In Thirsty's case, however, Andre immediately took a dislike to him.
  • Secret Keeper: He's the only one who knows that Lucious' mother is still alive.
  • Troll: Like Lucious, he does this Andre and Rhonda while they are trying to exhume Vernon's body.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Protests on the grounds of being a "gentleman" when Harper Scott wonders if he's going to murder her on the side of the road after driving her away. Then a few thugs drag her away from his car.

Others

    Billy Barretti 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/osd.jpg
Played by: Judd Nelson

Owner of Creedmore Entertainment who gave Lucious his big break until they fell out due to Barretti's exploitative nature.


  • Alliterative Name: Billy Barretti.
  • Arch-Enemy: Lucious sees him as this.
  • Beard of Evil: Has a goatee.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He has a late son who passed away from cancer. Bringing it up is still a sore spot for him. Which of course, Lucious does during a Mexican standoff between them.
  • Evil Mentor: How Lucious sees him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He's introduced meeting Lucious and Vernon at a nightclub politely greeting them, and makes threats to financially ruin Lucious if he goes forward with his IPO application.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Is this to Lucious.
  • Oh, Crap!: He obviously has this moment when he's almost thrown off the ledge by Jamal, of all people, who was threatening him to cease his injunction against his father.
  • The Rival: In addition to Lucious' and Barretti's personal beef, Creedmore Entertainment serves as this to Empire Records.
  • The Svengali: The biggest reason Lucious left him is because Barretti offered no creative input in Lucious' music and yet still made money simply by putting his name on the albums.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Hasn't appeared since the first half of the season 1 finale.

    Michael Sanchez 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/empire_michael_kitchen.png
Played by: Rafael de la Fuente

Jamal's on-and-off boyfriend, a culinary student who fears that Jamal's growing fame will drive the two apart.


  • The Bus Came Back: He and Jamal are back together as of the second season premiere. It helps that Jamal has publicly come out the closet.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Compared to the other love interests, he had the least amount of character establishment in the early episodes. Only halfway through the first season do we learn he's an aspiring chef. In the next episode, he develops somewhat by leaving Jamal.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Michael leaves Jamal, when the latter declares himself single on TV and his apparent daughter pops up—who Michael predicts will be harder to separate from.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Michael cheated on Jamal with his boyfriend's photographer.

    Camilla Marks 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/107empire107_sc32_0542_f_hires2.jpg
Played by: Naomi Campbell

Hakeem's secret lover, a famous fashion designer who's more than twice his age.


    Ryan Morgan 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/eka.jpg
Played by: Eka Darville

An Australian filmmaker hired by Lucious to film a documentary based on his life, family, and music. Enters a relationship with Jamal and inspires him to come out.


  • Afro Asskicker: While his asskicking is more philosophical than physical, his hair is his most striking feature.
  • Badass Gay: Has dealt with daddy issues of his own, but became stronger for it. He is also not the least bit intimidated by Lucious.
    Ryan: If he doesn't like [me being gay], he can kiss my arse.
  • The Muse: Inspires Jamal to come out to the media and be more sexually forthcoming in his music.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Had to be told not to film personal family arguments for the documentary.
  • Put on a Bus: He and Jamal break up between Seasons 1 and 2, allegedly due to Ryan's promiscuity.
  • Straight Gay: Like Jamal, he has no Camp traits.

    Olivia 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/raven_as_olivia.png
Played by: Raven-Symoné

A former back-up dancer and Jamal's ex-wife, a sham marriage from when he was 18, set up by Lucious to make him look straight. She has a daughter that she claims is Jamal's.


  • Amicable Exes: With Jamal.
  • Arranged Marriage: Lucious had her marry Jamal for the sake of being The Beard.
  • The Beard: Lucious forced them to get married, insisting it would help Jamal to seem heterosexual, and help Olivia breakout from being a background singer. She divorced Jamal because of how miserable he was in the arrangement.
  • Dark Secret: Sleeping with Lucious while she's still married to Jamal.
  • Missing Mom: Abandons her daughter after dropping her in Jamal's lap. We later find out it's to protect Lola from Olivia's abusive ex-boyfriend, Reggie.
  • Sexless Marriage: She and Jamal only had sex once. It was initially believed that Lucious was the father of the child she conceived during her marriage. However, it turns out Lucious isn't the father either.
  • Sexual Extortion: She slept with Lucious in exchange for his help with her singing career.

    Lola 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/268e040900000578_2991006_image_m_117_1426141075013.jpg
Played by: Leah Jeffries

Olivia's daughter, who comes to live with the Lyons after her mother leaves her.


  • Alliterative Name: It's not clear if she took her father's last name or her mother. If it's her father's, her name is Lola Lyon. Turns out her father is not a Lyon at all.
  • The Cutie: Everyone, characters and audiences alike, agree that she's adorable.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Olivia claims that Jamal is Lola's father. "Sins of the Father" reveals that Lucious is actually Lola's father, making her Jamal's half-sister. But it's later revealed in "Time Shall Unfold" that Lucious is not Lola's father either.
  • Morality Pet: Is this to the entire Lyon family, who all drop their usual unpleasant demeanor and act very sweet to her.
  • Nice Girl: A consistently sweet child. A trait which makes her quite lovable.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: It was initially stated that she was the Lyon brothers' half-sister. However, it was later revealed that this isn't the case.
  • The Pollyanna: Thankfully, she turns out fine despite her unfortunate time with her asshole step-dad.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Her biological father was thought to be Lucious, making her possibly legal father also her biological half-brother. A paternity test revealed that she isn't related to the Lyons at all.

    Frank Gathers 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/9e918560_4911_0133_6d1b_0aecee5a8273.jpg
Played by: Chris Rock

A powerful mob boss who Cookie testified against in order to have her sentence reduced. He finally appears in Season 2, incarcerated in the same prison as Lucious and is later murdered on Lucious' orders, when he discover that he threatened Cookie. He's also the father of aspiring rapper Freda Gatz.


  • Affably Evil: If you don't bother him, interfere with his business dealings, snitch on him, or kill one of his henchmen, he'll leave you well alone. Might even be civil with you. Otherwise...
  • Calling Card: A rose. Sometimes with a box. You don't want to know what the box contains.
  • The Dreaded: Cookie is shit-scared of him. And for good reason. This guy was ballsy (or batshit crazy) enough to have a federal agent murdered and were it not for a testimony from a witness who had her identity protected (Cookie), he would have walked. His arrival in prison has him commanding total and immediate respect. At least up until the end of the episode that is.
  • Due to the Dead: In the barbershop Freda works at, the front chair is permanently reserved to her late father, and serves as a small shrine to him.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He has two daughters, one of them being Freda Gatz. He also encourages her ambitions as a rapper, and requests that Lucious has her signed on his label.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Was originally a small-time hustler when Lucious first met him. Eventually, he becomes one of the most feared drug lords in the East Coast.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: For Season 1 and much of Season 2, regarding Cookie, and his rapping daughter Freda. Later turns out to be one for the entire series since it was a chance meeting with a young Dwight Walker that got the latter to sell drugs, using the profits to kickstart his music career.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Heavily implied. Cookie even compares him to Idi Amin.
  • Lean and Mean: Quite wiry, but projects a dangerous aura all the same.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: See The Dreaded. It seems prison only mildly inconveniences him. Also, he murdered and decapitated Cookie's cousin, then sent his head to her as a warning that she's next.
  • Pet the Dog: His interaction with his daughters.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Frank Gathers got Lucious and Cookie into drug dealing. But from that drug money, the two built a company which became one of the world's most powerful music labels in the world. His death also is a driving factor in Freda Gatz's actions.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He's not at all a Large Ham, or one to fly-off at the handle. He never raises his voice, but his anger becomes obvious once you interact with him. One notable scene has him with Carol's husband tortured and tied to a chair while he calmly sits on a table on the other end eating some sort of 'red meat' . . . likely from another inmate, as he interrogates him.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: A lot of guys from Freda's neighborhood, from battle rappers to customers, speak of him in ill regard, sometimes to intentionally get a rise out of Freda. Needless to say, they were mostly quiet about him when he was still alive.

    District Attorney Roxanne Ford 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/roxanne_ford.png
Played by: Tyra Ferell

The prosecutor in Lucious' trial for the murder of Marcus "Bunkie" Williams, and an antagonist in Season 2. She is determined to see to it that Lucious goes down.


  • Absolute Cleavage: As you can see.
  • Amoral Attorney: She hid Lucious' medication while he was in jail, in order to force a confession for Bunkie's murder. Later, she threatens to go after his children to Cookie, if she refuses to cooperate with her.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Opposed to Lucious.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Politely greets Cookie before threatening to throw her in jail, and go after her children if Cookie refuses to disclose information about Lucious related to his case.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: She really wants Lucious to go down and will pull all the stops to make sure that happens. This includes withdrawing his medication, following his post-bail activities, having the FBI raid the offices of both Empire and Lyon Dynasty, arresting members of the Lyon family, and stalling his business dealings.
  • Put on a Bus: In "Be True", Lucious mentioned she "took a leave of absence" after discovering Vernon's rotten corpse in her car.
  • Unwitting Pawn: To Cookie after she has her arrested. She underestimated just how much she hated Lucious, but also her own personal standards and used her to screw with Lucious' purchase of Apex Radio so that Lyon Dynasty can have a chance to build, all while withholding information about the exact circumstances of Bunkie's murder.
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