An “Empire” of Her Own

Attica's Photo
Photo courtesy of Jenny Walters

I’m sure most of you have heard of the new hit series on Fox called Empire and you may be familiar with some of its characters – Lucious, Cookie, Jamal, Andre, and Hakeem. But one person you may not be familiar with is Attica Locke. Lucious and Cookie may be the face of the hit series but Attica is one of writers for the series. This week, Reel Focus will explore one of the geniuses behind this phenomenal new series and will focus on how she built an “Empire” of her own.

Attica thank you so much for talking to our Reel Focus readers. We all of course are excited about your recent success with the new show but I want us all to go back down memory lane and get to know Attica Locke. How did your writing career begin?

AL:  I have always been writing, even as a child. But somewhere around high school, when I saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, something clicked inside me and I wanted to be involved in film. I started writing scripts. I went to film school at Northwestern University in Chicago and then moved to LA as soon as I graduated. I wrote scripts exclusively at that time, but I was only thinking of them in terms of being a path to directing. I wasPleasantville a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab and came out of that with a movie deal, which collapsed shortly after. It broke my heart. I was 25 years old. I knew I could write but was not certain at that time that I would ever get my own movie made, or that Hollywood was interested in my kind of black stories. So I became a studio screenwriter. I made a lot of money writing scripts for every major studio. I did it for years, but nothing ever got made. I grew bored and disenchanted and decided to write a book. That was three books ago.

What is life like for you outside of Hollywood?

I am someone’s mother. So that’s mostly my life outside of Hollywood. Soccer games and play dates. And I read A LOT.TheCuttingSeason

I myself am a book writer and screenwriter and so I’m going to ask this question on behalf of me and other fellow novelist and screenwriters. How did you make the successful transition from a book writer to a screenwriter and what advice can you give to the ladies of Women in Film and Television Atlanta?

 As you see above, I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist. I came back to Hollywood because TV has gotten really interesting over the last decade or so. All the stuff I was doing as a feature writer – character dramas, political thrillers, etc. – has all moved to television. It’s hard to live off book money in Los Angeles, so I went to my agents and said I wanted to exploreBlackWaterRising TV. I went in with an idea for my own show, but I also told them I’d like to look at the pilots that were going to series, and I wanted to take meetings. I had never done TV, so I was stepping waaayyyy outside my comfort zone. But I kept saying to myself, almost like a mantra, “I’m willing to be uncomfortable.” When I read the script for Empire, I knew I wanted to be part of it from the first page. It took a lot of meetings, but then I got the job!

My best advice is always to write, write, write, and be willing to stretch yourself. Reach high and stay ambitious. And believe in the power of your own voice.

 

Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for. Let’s talk – brag about your involvement with Empire. According to IMDB, you have co-produced 11 of the episodes of the first season and have written one: “Our Dancing Days.” I will let you share what you like to about this episode or about the show in general.

I love the show because it’s so fresh, so unprecedented. I’ve never seen these characters on TV before. I’ve never seen a Cookie on TV, though I’ve known them in my real life. I’ve never seen a Jamal on TV before, though I know young men like him in my real life. It’s all a breath of fresh air. And I love the fact that the show lives in a kind of high, low place. We do big soap opera turns and crazy plot twists, but we also deal with social issues like homophobia, mental health, race, and class. My favorite part of the episode I wrote was when Cookie took over the stage and gave the speech to investors in Lucious’s place. It was pure Cookie.

 

 

For more information on Attica Locke visit http://www.atticalocke.com

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The Afterthought – Empire Season Premiere Review

 Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX
Photo Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX

The Afterthought – Reel Focus blogger’s initial reaction to a new television show, new film release or television show season premiere.

Last season, I got into the “Empire” craze late.  I had heard rumors from friends and co-workers that this show is fantastic but I wasn’t eager to watch it because in the back of my mind I thought “It’s network television, how good could this show really be?”  Well it’s a good thing that I didn’t let my prejudice cause me to miss out on one of the hottest shows that I have ever seen on network television.  I couldn’t believe some of the things I saw unfold before my eyes on screen.  This show really pushes the limits of what has been standard television and I like it.  With shows like this coming back to television, I won’t have to rely so much on cable surfing to find a great thriller.

In the last episode, we witnessed Lucious Lyon get taken to jail and his oldest son, Andre committed a crime that we’re not entirely sure is actually a crime yet.  How did the season open up?  Let’s find out.

My Synopsis of the Episode

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I will be very brief and mention the 6 most critical things that happened on the show.

  1.  Cookie Lyons opens up the episode with a ‘Free Lucious Concert’
  2. In jail, Lucious runs into an old dangerous acquaintance – Frank Gathers
  3. Mimi, a woman involved in helping Cookie perform a hostile takeover of Empire from Lucious is ironically working for Lucious – the family’s plan foils and Jamal is infuriated as a result of the family’s scheme
  4. Cookie is being viciously taunted by Frank Gathers even while he is jail so she visits Lucious to have him put a stop to it
  5. Frank and Lucious meet in jail and Frank wants his supposedly loyal jail mates to kill Luscious however they are loyal to Lucious and he has them to take care of Frank instead
  6. The episode ends with Jamal still brewing over the hostile takeover that Cookie schemed up and there is an implication that she has just incited a war, not with Lucious this time but with Jamal

The Afterthought – My Take on the Season Premiere

My, my, my!  What an opener!  I was amazingly calm throughout most of the episode.  I think this may have been what the production team wanted the audience to experience.  I felt like we were being eased back into the plot rather than hit with too much too fast.  Just as the ‘boat was steadied,’ it was shook up by the hostile takeover scene in which Cookie’s scheme to oust Lucious failed.  From that point on, we start to see the real Empire that we are accustomed to: the shadiness, the in-fighting, and most importantly Lucious handling business even while incarcerated.  Overall, I was very pleased with the opening episode and I certainly can’t wait to see what Jamal plans to do to get revenge on his mother for what she did.  It looks like the drama is getting ready to start cooking rather rapidly from now on and I hope that some of the stuff we’re still in the dark about will come to light soon enough.

 IMDb TV Show Synopsis

Lucious, the founder and CEO of a successful record label has been diagnosed with ALS. He must choose one of his three sons to take over the company when he dies. Meanwhile, his ex wife and co-founder, Cookie, has been released from prison and wants to reclaim her rightful place in the company.

TV Show Directors

Lee Daniels, Sanaa Hamri, Debbie Allen, Michael Engler, Rob Hardy, Anthony Hemingway, Rosemary Rodriguez, John Singleton, Danny Strong, Mario Van Peebles

TV Show Writer(s)

Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Ilene Chaiken, Joshua Allen, Wendy Calhoun , Eddie Gonzalez , Jeremy Haft, Eric Haywood, Attica Locke, David Rambo, Malcolm Spellman

Main Actors/Actresses

Terrence Howard , Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, Grace Gealey, Kaitlin Doubleday, Ta’Rhonda Jones, Gabourey Sidibe, Malik Yoba, Derek Luke

 

 


 

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Actress Taraji P. Henson’s New Film, Proud Mary, Looks Promising

Image courtesy of IMDb

 

Taraji P. Henson’s ascension from television star to full – fledged movie star continues with the upcoming action flick Proud Mary.

In this movie, Taraji portrays Mary, a hit woman for the Boston Mafia who while on a job comes across a young boy and her life is forever changed. The film boasts a cast that consists of Danny Glover, Billy Brown from How to Get Away with Murder, and Margaret Avery whom we remember as Shug Avery from The Color Purple and currently costars on Being Mary Jane.

The movie doesn’t open until January, but when the trailer dropped a few months ago, many, including myself, were excited to see Henson take on this role which is different from any we’ve seen with her. It’s also rare to see Black women as leads in action films if we’re in them at all. My question is after the lackluster reception of Atomic Blonde and the Tomb Raider trailer will people gravitate to this film?

Let’s hope that the popularity that Henson has gained over the years, especially from her leading role on Empire, will prove that black women can also lead action films to the number one spot at the box office.

 

 


 

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