Danny Strong is about as talented a guy as you’ll find — even by demanding Hollywood standards. Strong is the co-creator, with producer Lee Daniels, of the hottest show network TV has seen in eons–Empire. If you’ve been under a rock, Empire is the salacious, over-the-top, gorgeously-set saga of a rap mogul and his family running, yup, a hip-hop empire. As drama, it’s a loaded gun with ten triggers: the patriarch has ALS, one of his talented sons is gay (and struggling to come out publicly), another son is bipolar. There’s love, lust, violence, money, art (a Kara Walker on the wall, that kind of thing) but most of all music. And celebrity — the show is a who’s who of star face time: Snoop Dogg, Naomi Campbell, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Hudson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and on and on.
One thing Empire doesn’t have is a lot of white faces, a fact that makes it a surprise to some that Danny Strong — the dramatist — is white. But the story arc of Empire is Shakespearean and universal — and though it’s set among mostly African-Americans the conflicts are common and age-old. Still, how does Strong imagine his way into this unfamiliar territory? Think of it this way, as Kevin Fallon at Daily Beast points out: Strong wrote the Mockingjay screenplays for The Hunger Games, and it’s “unlikely that he has much experience in a dystopian world on the brink of civil war.”