EMPIRE Premieres Tonight

EMPIRE Premieres Tonight

The highly anticipated Chicago-made Fox series EMPIRE bows tonight with an ideal cast, ideal crew... and the ideal lead-in.

The hip-hop centered family drama premieres tonight at 8 pm Central, and leading off the evening will be the 14th season premiere of perennial ratings powerhouse AMERICAN IDOL. While IDOL is not the ratings king it used to be, last season's finale still brought in a whopping 10.1 million viewers. And that was a series low. Needless to say, IDOL remains a huge draw and an ideal lead-in for the music-laden EMPIRE. Add in Oscar nominees Terence Howard, Gabourey Sidibe and Taraji P. Henson with Oscar nominated director Lee Daniels and the stage is set for an auspicious opening night. Which is also great news for Illinois and Chicago.

EMPIRE spent $25 million in 2014 to shoot its first twelve episodes. Of that amount, about half will go directly to Illinois wages. The production is using 75 Illinois vendors. For those of you keeping score at home: since 2009, Illinois’ film industry has driven more than $1.2 billion in economic growth, including roughly $600 million in wages for Illinois workers.

EMPIRE is being filmed at the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the city’s near west side. The long list of Chicago-based vendors includes post-production sound specialists Periscope and perennial camera and lens provider Cineverse (formerly Fletcher Chicago).

EMPIRE will also offer career-vaulting opportunities for Chicago artists in front of the camera, by way of the good folks at Simon Casting. Hometown actors to look for in tonight's episode (other than Chicago native Terence Howard, of course) include Antoine McKay, Carolyn Hoerdemann, Jennifer Joan Taylor, Grace Gealey, Chris Redd, Jamon Williams, Shanequa Beal, Tyler Tharpe, Zoe Ishmael and Tom Gaitsch.

Swing by SCREEN's Trailer Park for the official trailer and an extended First Look Preview from FOX. More importantly, tune into Fox at 8 pm tonight, tell your friends, tweet it, facebook it, heck myspace it if that's your thing, for the series premiere of EMPIRE!

Mike McNamara is the Co-Founder of The Midwest Independent Film Festival, www.midwestfilm.org. Mike pays his rent as an actor in Chicago in theatre, commercials, television and film. More from Mac at www.findmac.com.