Four decades of memories weren’t the only thing Lucious was missing when Empire returned with its fourth season on Wednesday. Roughly 15 minutes into the premiere, it was revealed that the Lyon patriarch — already battling an extreme bout of amnesia — also lost his leg in last May’s car explosion. But equally as noteworthy is what the modern-day J.R. Ewing has gained in the intervening five months: a conscience, a soul and an overall sense of decency, not to mention a bodyguard/nurse maid in the form of Demi Moore’s creepy caretaker Claudia (aka the new bane of Cookie’s existence).
Below, executive producer/director Sanaa Hamri reveals why she and her fellow EPs felt it was necessary to deal Lucious such a profound physical blow in addition to a mental one, explains why jailbird Anika was MIA in the opener and talks Jamal’s “fake boyfriend.”
TVLINE | Lucious’ leg was amputated! Wasn’t it enough that the poor guy lost all his memories?
[Laughs] Well, that was a pretty big car explosion. If you rewatch the finale of Season 3, you can see that he really goes flying through the air and, basically, his leg gets blown off. Lucious has to not only regain his memory with nurse Claudia, but he also has to rehabilitate his leg and be able to learn how to walk with a special leg.
TVLINE | When did you decide he would lose his leg?
I think it was decided in the writers’ room when we [regrouped for Season 4], which I think was sometime at the end of May.
TVLINE | Claudia’s over-protectiveness of Lucious, is that about more than just genuine concern and possibly affection?
As you see in the episode, the familiarity and the relationship between Lucious and Claudia grows because Lucious has to trust Claudia, and Claudia is using certain methods of mind and body connection and trust connection so that he can slowly regain his memory. With that said, it creates intimacy between the two of them. So I feel like she genuinely cares about her patients because she’s really, really good. She’s at the top in her field. At the same time, being alone in a mansion for weeks on end with a fine gentleman like Lucious Lyon, obviously, other stuff starts stirring up. And then of course on Lucious’ behalf, he looks at her, his only benchmark that he knows of. He’s estranged from Cookie, he’s estranged from his family, he doesn’t know who is who, really. He’s having to learn about everybody, and about how horrible he’s been to certain people. So that relationship between Lucious and Claudia is just strengthening.
TVLINE | This is the most vulnerable and innocent we’ve ever seen Lucious. It’s almost like Terrence Howard is playing a new character. Has Terrence been enjoying the change?
Terrence has been really been going deep into playing Dwight Walker, which is Lucious Lyon’s original name. Terrence, being the very meticulous actor that he is, is able to tap into that fresh perspective. It’s a new day. [Lucious] lives in the now. It’s almost like he’s washed of all his sins because he cannot even remember them. It’s so interesting to be able to see, “Who is Lucious Lyon had he not done all the deeds that he’s done or not gone through [what he did]?” He doesn’t remember what his mother did to him when he was a little boy, when she drowned him in the bathtub. The child abuse that he had endured as a kid, he doesn’t recall it. Terrence tapped into this really fresh approach to a character. It’s been wonderful working with him and directing him.
TVLINE | Warren is clearly falling for Jamal — safe to say Diana suspects that’s the reason he hasn’t handed her any dirt on the Lyon family yet?
He’s starting to have feelings for him in the sense that he’s slowly getting seduced into Jamal’s world. We can see he’s struggling with the duty that he’s been given. I think it’s going to be gradual. Let’s see how far Jamal can make [Warren] fall in love with him and see where the two go. But obviously, it’s a very tricky thing to be a fake boyfriend to somebody who’s so magnetic as Jamal Lyon.
TVLINE | I was really looking forward to seeing Anika in prison. Why did you keep her off screen in the premiere? And will we see her next week?
We will see Anika in prison. It was just too soon to bring that in [with] so much going on. We’ve got a lot of storylines, and pacing them out is always a good thing.
TVLINE | My favorite comedy duo, Porsha and Thirsty, were both in the premiere, but they didn’t share any scenes. Please tell me we’re getting a sequel to last season’s Granny-napping episode.
[Laughs] Oh yes! By the way, you’re going to see a lot of Thirsty coming up, and you’re going to see a lot of Porsha. They have very extensive roles. For example, Cookie has to look after the Empire because Lucious doesn’t remember a thing. Porsha has also stepped up to the plate and is now more of an executive secretary. It’s fun to see her transition from when she first came [on] as the assistant.