How Lee Daniels Drew on His Own Life to Shape Empire, TV's Surprise Hit

The creative force tells us what he's learned and what's next

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Scratch the surface of Fox's monster hit drama Empire and you'll find a whole lot of truths that are based on the experiences of Lee Daniels, who created the series with his partner, Danny Strong.

Just as fictional hip-hop artist Jamal Lyon was beaten as a child by his homophobic father, so, too, was Daniels, who serves as Empire's executive producer, writer and sometimes director. (Unlike Lucious Lyon, Empire's father figure and head of a powerful music company—portrayed with steely-eyed grit by actor Terrence Howard—Daniels' father was a Philadelphia cop.)

Daniels' work has won fans and awards.



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