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Lee Daniels on Fox's Empire: "I Have a Great Love For Soap Opera"


Somebody pinch me. Is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker actually copping to being a soap fan?! Lee Daniels, the auteur behind Monster's Ball, Precious and The Butler, is coming to TV this Wednesday with Fox's new hip-hopera, Empire.

Here's what he said to TV Guide Magazine's Michael Logan about what influenced his glamorous, sexy saga:

"I have a great love for soap opera," confesses Daniels. "This is my black Dynasty."

I shouldn't be surprised Daniels mentioned his love for suds. He did say he dreamed of working with Susan Lucci!

From writer Danny Strong, Empire is a re-imagining of Shakespeare's King Lear; only there are three sons warring for a powerful father's dynasty, as opposed to daughters.  The Best Man's Terrence Howard stars as Lucious Lyon, superstar rapper and founder of Empire Records. After learning he has ALS, Lucious decides to start grooming one of his three sons as his heir apparent.

All My Children alum Trai Byers appears as eldest son Andre, CFO of the family business. The Skinny's Jussie Smollett is Jamal, the gay middle son his father is ashamed of, despite his musical talents. Hakeem, the beloved youngest son and a budding rapper, is played by Bryshere Gray.

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While Lucious and his offspring all look solid, Empire belongs to a woman named Cookie. Played by film and television star Taraji P. Henson, Cookie is the ex-wife who made the family dynasty possible.

Cookie took the fall following a game-changing drug deal that afforded Lucious the cash he needed to start Empire Records. Now she's out of prison and wants what belongs to her. Think a hood rich version of Alexis Carrington Colby.

Here's what Henson told Logan about her character:

"Cookie is my hero — a tell-it-like-it-is everywoman who has made the ultimate sacrifice for her family," says Henson. "Lucious was every bit as guilty of the drug charges that sent Cookie to prison, but she took the fall so that he could build a company and create a future for their kids.

 Empire premieres Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 9/8C on Fox. Watch the trailer below!