If we know to expect anything of Empire, it's that we shouldn't expect anything — because whatever writers and executive producers Lee Daniels, Sanaa Hamri and Ilene Chaiken come up with will most certainly be wilder than anything we could've imagined. While there are some known-knowns — Demi Moore will return as Lucious' nurse Claudia, and Forest Whitaker stars as a music icon and mentor named Uncle Eddie — producers and cast members Jussie Smollett, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson offered up more details about Season 4 at the Television Critics Association summer press tour Tuesday.
1. Yup, Empire's team reads your mean tweets
It's no secret that Empire's audience goes all in on social media, and fans lucky enough to bump into stars in public don't hold back from sharing their opinions either. Whatever the medium, viewers might be surprised to know that the team absolutely is listening — and maybe even incorporating your feedback. "They're very clear and they are loud," Lee Daniels said of fans. "When they are unhappy, we know." Taraji P. Henson might even be saving your tweets and posts. "I'll send tweets, Instagram screenshots up the flagpole," she said. So yeah, watch what you say: nobody wants Cookie Lyon showing up at their house.
2. You'll see more guest stars, but they'll be artistes
Empire is well-known for celebrity cameos, so you can rest assured there are more to come. Daniels was reluctant to say who'll we'll see this season but, Jussie Smollett made it clear that the type of celeb guests will step Empire's game up. Legendary performers Phylicia Rashad, Whitaker and Leslie Uggams on board is an indication of how high the bar is. "You're going to see actors," Smollett said, probably meaning we won't see personalities along the likes of say, Don Lemon anymore. "It's not really just for the glow."
3. There's gonna be more back-and-forth with Lucious and Cookie
TV's most toxic romance isn't over — not by a long shot. These two have spent untold hours trying to move on from each other, be with other people and plain old tried to destroy each other, but as we saw in the Season 3 finale, Lucious just can't quit Cookie. (And vice versa.) "A lot of women can understand," Henson said. She was speaking about Henson's demand that Cookie not have sex with Lucious following Season 3's epic Lemonade-inspired baseball batting of Lucious' office, but her addiction to him looks forward, too. "We have many years to deal with this couple and it's a complex relationship."
4. "Jamal and Cookie, The Comedy" may be closer to becoming real than you think
If you couldn't help but notice how Smollett and Henson's comedic chemistry became stronger — almost distractingly stronger — last season, you weren't imaging things. It might even take a life of its own. When a reporter at TCA started asking a question about their natural hilarious rhythm, Henson couldn't even let him finish before blurting, "Oh yes honey we just talked about it," suggesting there could be some conversations about expanding their schtick in another platform. Henson, who won raves for her turn in the drama Hidden Figures and will play a gun-toting action heroine in Proud Mary, is apparently pining to do comedy. Apparently, she's a natural. "I've always said Taraji is the love child of Bette Davis and Samuel L. Jackson," Smollett said. "She looks like a leading lady but she's a character actor; she's one of the funniest people alive." They're like brother and sister, he said; she returned the love by outing him as someone who dyes his hair and beard. Cute.
5. More murder and mayhem are in store
Of course, the Lyons are known for stopping at nothing to get what they want — and offing people is no hindrance at all. It remains to be seen how Season 4 will deal with Lucious' unhinged momma Leah Walker (Leslie Uggams) stabbing Lucious's half-brother Tariq (Morocco Omari) but Ilene Chaiken made it sound very...Empire, reminding us that amnesia-suffering Lucious is the only one who saw the murder, so will he even remember? However that pans out, rest assured that more characters are going to sleep with the fishes before it's all over. The Lyons, Lee Daniels said, are going to keep doing what they do best. "They're gonna keep killing."
Empire Season 4 premieres Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 8/9c on Fox.