‘Empire’ cast woo Emmy voters with performances and panel discussion (Video)

As extravagant as a Cookie Lyons production, “Empire” took over downtown Los Angeles for one of the the most electric Emmy event in years. An evening devoted to the Fox mega-hit drew a 1,000 strong crowd, including a number of TV Academy voters, to the Ace Hotel Theater. As they waited in line to make their way into the theater, they could hear passersbys shouting “I love ‘Empire’” and “Cookie you’re a queen.”

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As they entered they were greeted by a popcorn table and an “Empire” themed drink list at the bar and then directed into the theater for an exclusive sneak-peek screening of the first hour of the season finale. After the screening ended and the audience came down from all the shock and excitement (believe me folks, it’s a doozy) they were lifted up again and on their feet as Cookie herself (Taraji P. Henson) took to the stage.

She introduced a special surprise: performances by Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) and Bryshere Gray (Hakeem Lyon) of two of the show’s biggest hit songs, “You’re So Beautiful” and “No Apologies,”

Once voters stopped dancing and sat back in their seats the rest of the cast took to the stage including Terrence HowardTrai Byers, Kaitlin Doubleday and Grace Gealey as well as creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and executive producers Brian Grazer and Ilene Chaiken for a free-wheeling Q&A moderated by EW’s Tim Stack

Watch (or listen) to the whole event at the bottom of this post. 

Strong revealed he had the idea for “Empire” while in his car listening to a news story about a hip-hop artist: “I kind of just came up with these ideas and then I thought ‘I should call Lee Daniels. I have his phone number, this is crazy, so I called him and I pitched this idea to him as a movie and he called me the next day and he said: ‘I can’t stop thinking about your idea but I think it’s a TV show’ and then we just started talking about ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Dallas’ but then also subverting the soap opera genre with dealing with social issues.”

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As for her chemistry with Howard share, Henson explained, “For Cookie and Lucious the love that they have is something that’s undeniable. No time, no man, no woman can come in between them. And for us that’s history. [With Terrence] I’ve been through every relationship with him. I know them all. I know all the babies all the children; we hang out with our kids together. We’ve stayed in tough through projects. This is like really my friend in life, so that you can’t write. That you can’t make up. And when I got the script I just knew that chemistry was needed for Cookie and Lucious because they can say ‘I hate you. I can’t stand you.’ And slap the hell out of each other and the next thing they’re laughing and figuring out how to get rid of Camilla (Naomi Campbell).”

There’s no doubt “Empire” struck a chord with Emmy voters at this event but will that translate to nominations in July? Make your own Emmys picks now — click here — or scroll down to predict the Best Drama Series winner using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Best predictions will win $1,000. And the 24 Users with the best scores advance to a team to compete against our Experts and Editors next year. Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Emmys last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. Register/log in to your account so you can also compete to predict “The Walking Dead,” “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” “Dancing with the Stars” and more.

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Below: Watch video of the performances (it corrects after intro)

Below: Watch video of Q&A with the cast or just listen to the audio podcast version.

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