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“Empire” fans get excited (if you haven’t already)! The record breaking hip hopera has begun production in Chicago. And we’ve got the first sneak peek. We told you Chris Rock will be joining the cast this season, and now we know what role he will play. Check it out inside….

As if we weren’t already excited about the upcoming second season of “Empire,” these recently released behind-the-scenes videos and pics of the first day of shooting as us even more excited.

Director/creator Lee Daniels is bringing “Empire” fans behind-the-scenes of production, which kicked off this week in Chicago. In a couple of videos and Instagram shots, we see Terrence Howard (Lucious Lyon) behind bars after we watched him be taken away by authorities in the season 1 finale.

And guess who is in lock up with him? Chris Rock! We told you the Top Five comedian would be guest starring in the upcoming season (along with Alicia Keys and Lenny Kravitz), and now we know he will be playing a prisoner in lock up with Lucious. This should be interesting.

Peep the clip below:

A video posted by Lee Daniels (@theoriginalbigdaddy) on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:05am PDT

On the set, Lee snapped it up with a few of the shirtless prison extras. He captioned, “Ummmm … #prisonlife? #freelucious #empireseason2 #day1 #bigdaddylostintheyard” Ha! We’re certainly here for a few shirtless men… and Lee seems to be also.

After the first day of shooting, the fellas laughed it up in a video clip about someone getting punched in the stomach during taping. It appears Terrence (who welcomed a new baby boy last month) got into his role a little too much. Fight scene perhaps? Check it:

A video posted by Lee Daniels (@theoriginalbigdaddy) on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:36pm PDT

Below are a few more stills from the first day of production:

A video posted by Lee Daniels (@theoriginalbigdaddy) on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:42am PDT

Before filming officially kicked off….

The “Empire” cast, including Lee, Trai Byers, Bryshere Gray, Gabourey Sidibe, Grace Gealey, Ta’Rhonda Jones, Kaitlin Doubleday and more got together to celebrate Jussie Smollet’s birthday over the weekend.

Jussie captioned, “Spent the bday weekend with m’baby & ended the night w/ my @empirefox fam @traibyers @yazzthegreatest @kaitlindday (the crackhead who took this pic), @gracegealey, @flygirl1988, Moheen, Ilene & @iamazmarie. I love yall so much. Thank you @gabby3shabby & @theoriginalbigdaddy for throwing such a perfectly grown ass night… Minus this silly string shizz. And my God thank you to all of you beautiful people for the bday wishes. Really meant so much and I felt the love. I hope you always feel it back from me. #SummerSolstice #CancerSeason”

“The View” co-host Raven Symone’s girlfriend AzMarie Livingston was also in the mix as she plays one of Hakeem’s cronies. Hmmm…will Raven be returning for season 2?

Gabby also shared a IG pic of her “Becky” hair, captioning, “I’m just gonna go ahead and stop pretending that I hate my hair. #GimmeDatBrcky” Ha!

Season 2 premieres September 23rd on FOX!


Jussie Smollett has his next guest-starring role lined up…and the gig is much sweeter since he will be starring opposite his younger sister.

The “Empire” breakout star will guest star alongside Jurnee Smollett-Bell in the upcoming WGN America Civil War-era drama “Underground.” This is the first time in 20 years the Smollett siblings will appear on screen together since their stint on “On Our Own” (1994-95). It’s currently in production in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is expected to premiere in 2016.

The cast includes Aldis Hodge (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Leverage), Emmy-nominated actor Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,”) Alano Miller (“Jane The Virgin”), Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”), Adina Porter (“True Blood,” “The 100,” “The Newsroom”), Amirah Vann (“Girls,” “And So It Goes”), Marc Blucas (“Blue Bloods”), Mykelti Williamson (“Justified,” “24”), Reed Diamond (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Johnny Ray Gill (“Rectify”).

A synopsis of the series is as follows (via press release):

The pulse-pounding series will follow slaves banding together in the fight of their lives – for their families, their future…and their freedom. Smollett will play Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone, not even those stationed along the way who would try to help him.

Will you be tuning in?

Taraji P. Henson has landed her next movie role. She will reunite with co-creator Danny Strong in a new film titled, The Best of Enemies. According to Deadline,

[Taraji] will play Atwater, the ferocious civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina. She had a decade-long battle with sworn enemy C.P. Ellis, the Exalted Cyclops of Durham’s Ku Klux Klan. Their feud came to an abrupt and unlikely end in 1971. After a court ordered school desegregation decree threw the southern city into turmoil, Atwater and Ellis reluctantly agreed to co-chair an intensive, two week community meeting to try to reach a compromise. The extraordinary events that followed changed Durham, and the lives of Atwater and Ellis forever.


Photos: Lee’s IG/Jussie’s IG/The Wrap

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