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.
Shaking up the USDA, 'The Beef Cookbook' and 'Tartine All Day' Peggy Lowe explains why Trump’s pick for USDA Secretary is rattling rural America. Dario Cecchini talks future plans for Chianti ramen, and Richard Turner shares cuts from “PRIME: The Beef Cookbook.” Writer Matthew Sedacca looks at the controversy behind liquid smoke. Jonathan Gold tries Chengdu-style dishes, and Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine fills us in on the latest. Plus, chef Michael Beckman shares a recipe for cactus confit.
Securing Public Spaces, Super Wealthy Asians Vehicles are increasingly being used as weapons, as seen in the London Bridge attack over the weekend and in New York’s Times Square last month. The Compton-based company Calpipe is designing security bollards to help make public spaces safer. And novelist Kevin Kwan satirizes the “crazy rich” Asian jet set and their luxurious tastes in his latest book, “Rich People Problems.”
George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo (Part I) Lincoln in the Bardo dramatizes a grieving President Lincoln as he visits the grave of his beloved son Willie, who died at age eleven. In the novel, the buried dead believe they're not dead -- "they're sick and refer to their coffins as "sick boxes."
Farewell LA freeways, Peter Shire is back Angelenos don't want more freeways but we seem not to want mass transit either. Metro has killed the 710 freeway extension, and bus and train ridership is down across the region. What's the future of getting around in LA? And, Peter Shire is having a comeback. What attracts a new generation to his playful ceramics and furniture?