Taraji P. Henson said that she would only do the show under the condition that Terrence Howard played the lead male role.
Tim Mosley (Timbaland) produces the music for the show. All of the songs are original tracks.
During its first season, viewership in the United States increased with every episode - a rarity in television where most shows lose viewers after the pilot episode. The pilot attracted 9.9 million people, culminating with an audience of 17.6 million for the season finale. Since modern Nielsen tracking began in 1991, the record for the most consecutive weeks of increased viewership for a new show was held by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1999) with five episodes, a record Empire broke with twelve episodes.
The scene in the pilot when Lucious throws young Jamal in the garbage was taken from Lee Daniels' childhood. His own father had done this to him when he was a child. When filming the scene, after a few takes, Lee told Terrance Howard to be more forceful. He wanted it to be done the same way it was done to him.
The show portrays the events and story as taking place in Philadelphia, and uses establishing skyline shots of Philadelphia. However, the series is actually filmed in Chicago.
The character Jamal is inspired by creator Lee Daniels' life. Andre is inspired by creator Danny Strong's mother, who also suffers from a mental illness.
The show is Fox's highest rated debut show in over three years. The premiere brought in 9.8 million viewers and ratings increased with each episode.
The character of Elle Dallas is based on Whitney Houston, though Lee Daniels created the part for Courtney Love, of whom he was a great admirer. When Daniels contacted Love about playing the recurring character, she thought it was a joke.
Wesley Snipes was considered for the part of Lucious Lyon before Terrence Howard was ultimately cast.
For her audition to play Elle Dallas, Courtney Love was asked to sing a Patti LaBelle song, which by all accounts, including Love's, was a disaster. Rather than cast another actress, Lee Daniels retooled the character as a megastar singer who lost her voice and asked Love to perform an Al Green song instead, so as to take advantage of Love's more rock-oriented vocals, rather than the R&B type-sound he'd originally envisioned. Love then won the part.
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson both starred in the movie Hustle & Flow (2005), which is also about Hip Hop.
Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson are also in Four Brothers, although unrelated.
The character of Puma was supposed to have a three-episode arc and be played by another actor, but when this actor had to back down of the project, co-creator Lee Daniels called his friend Cuba Gooding Jr., who happily agreed to play Puma but could only do it in one episode, due to scheduling conflicts.
Quincy Brown was originally cast in the role of Hakeem, but turned it down after contract negotiations failed.
The character Terrence Howard plays is 'Lucious Lyon.' The name 'Lucious' is derived from 'Lucifer,' also known as the 'Devil.' Ironically enough though, the name of Lucious' club is 'Leviticus,' the name of the third book of the Christian Bible.
Though Grace Byers plays Anika, Lucious's fiancée who is in his age group, in real life she's a year younger than both Trai Byers (André) and Jussie Smollett (Jamal).
Mo'Nique claims she was offered the role of Cookie Lyon, though Danny Strong and Lee Daniels deny this. Daniels admits to discussing the role with Mo'Nique, but that early discussions with the Fox Network prevented him from offering her the part, as she had gained a "difficult" reputation following her Oscar win.
Taraji P. Henson's character of Cookie has to report to an "Agent Carter", similar to the Detective Carter - Cookies character in her last program "Person Of Interest"
Trai Byers and Kaitlin Doubleday (married on show) share the same birthday. Byers is one year older.
Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Adam Rodriguez (Delgado) both previously stared in Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, as love interest.
Taraji P. Henson, who portrays Cookie Lyon, the mother of Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is only 13 years older than he is. Trai Byers (Andre Lyon) and Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) are the same age (born in 1983), although Andre is the older brother in the series.
In the show Andre is the oldest of the two brothers but in reality the actor that portrays Jamal is one month older than Andre
Macy Gray was initially cast in a recurring role in Season 1 as Tasha, a woman having an affair with Hakeem but her storyline was written out.
Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon in the TV series Empire in 2002 appeared in Mary J. Blige's video for " Be Without You ".
As Jussie Smollett (Jamal), sings "like my daddy", in the leviticus, you can see the music-producer of the show, Timbaland, in the background.
Performances by Terrence Howard as 'DJay' and Taraji P. Henson as 'Suge' in the 2005 movie "Hustle & Flow" are almost a perfect prelude to their 2015 hit series "Empire" and their characters 'Lucious Lyon' and 'Cookie Lyon' and the background story of their early years before Cookie's 17 year prison term where she takes the blame for Lucious.
In 2011, Howard played Nelson Mandela in Winnie Mandela alongside Jennifer Hudson .
As mentioned in the episode "Sinned Against" (2.9), Cookie's real first name is Loretha.