FROM Danny Strong
'Empire' Fox's Empire is a modern-day musical melodrama inspired in part by King Lear. The Shakespeare play is even name-checked in the pilot episode, when Terrence Howard as hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon, pits his three sons against each other in a struggle for the throne. The plot thickens when Lucious's ex-wife Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson, emerges from prison after 17 years and demands what's hers from her former husband and his new love interest. Empire opened big and it's defied gravity as the ratings went up week after week. The season finale drew more than 17 million viewers, and the show is on track to be the most-watched series of the season in the 18-to-49 demographic, the age range most loved by advertisers. While the show is an unapologetic soap opera -- co-creator Lee Daniels has compared it with the 80's TV series Dynasty -- it also deals with serious issues like mental illness and homophobia. With an almost entirely African American cast, the show is a breakthrough in prime-time and the other broadcast networks are taking note. Danny Strong came up with the idea for Empire. It's another success in an exceptionally versatile career. He wrote two award-winning HBO films about politics; he wrote Lee Daniels' The Butler, and he wrote not one, but two Hunger Games movies. But Strong is also an actor whom you might recognize from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Gilmore Girls or, more recently, Mad Men, Justified and Girls. It was actually another actor friend who first gave Strong the idea to try writing. Once he sold a script, he was hooked. Unlike some writers, Strong has never held to the notion of "write what you know." He tells us how he's been able to put himself inside the heads of characters as diverse as Sarah Palin to Katniss Everdeen to Cookie Lyon. And if you missed Cookie's stellar dialogue on Empire the first time around, you can now watch all the episodes on Hulu , which struck an exclusive deal with Fox to stream the show.
Lead poisoning hits LA County It’s been three years since the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan began. Flint residents are still drinking bottled water. In LA County, there are areas with even higher rates of lead contamination, and in places you wouldn’t expect, like wealthy San Marino.
Symbols of protest, lighting up EDM festivals The Women's March made a huge impact, in part because of its widely worn pink knitted "pussyhat." Does the March for Science need its own unifying symbol? Lighting designer Steve Lieberman is "the man behind the lights" for the country's leading electronic music festivals and nightclubs. He talks about his early experiences with rave culture, and what it takes to spark the excitement of today's EDM fans.
'A Square Meal,' a kosher slaughter and Ukrainian Easter eggs Historian Andrew Coe explains how the Great Depression altered the 1930s’ food landscape, and contributor Sam Brasch witnesses a kosher slaughter. Artist Sofika Zielyk shows us how to decorate Ukrainian Easter eggs, Sandor Katz discusses his latest fermentation projects, and Dana Cree introduces her new book, “Hello, My Name is Ice Cream.” Plus: Laura Avery finds Swiss chard at the market, and Jonathan Gold dines at Kismet.