Monday, March 23, 2015

‘I Started Watching Kanye West Interviews': Danny Strong On How A ‘White Guy’ Was Able To Create ‘Empire’

Uproxx: Danny Strong was headlong into his acting career when his thespian buddy sold a script for $250,000. It planted the bug in his ear that maybe he should give writing a shot. When Jon Favreau struck success by writing and acting in Swingers, it was all that Strong needed to push himself onto the blank page. He’s written two award-winning political dramas for HBO, two Hunger Games films, The Butler, and he now has one of the most successful TV shows of the modern era, Empire; not bad for a guy who was a smaller player in Buffy. Empire is now the fastest-growing drama on any network in the past 10 years.

Strong was recently interviewed on KCRW’s The Business podcast, and he spoke about how he was able to write a show that’s centered on African-American culture.

“As far as my own experience in the African-American community, the truth is, when it comes for me and writing, I don’t write anything that I have ever had any experience in,” Strong said. “For me, it’s about what interests me, what excites me. Nothing is about my own life experience.”

The multi-hyphenate writer also revealed some of the magic that helped propel his pen to write the second coming of Dynasty.

“I was in my car in L.A., and I was driving around, and I heard a news story about Puffy, and I just thought, ‘Hip-hop is so cool. That’s what I should do next, something in hip-hop.’ And I immediately began thinking King Lear and The Lion in Winter, and that’s how I work. I go to classical archetypes.”

When asked how a “white dude” is able to write dialogue for Cookie Lyon, an African-American female, Strong said, “I don’t worry about that.”

As for his other influences in creating the biggest new show of the year, Strong said, “To procrastinate and for inspiration, I started watching Kanye West interviews. After 45 minutes… I said, ‘Alright, I’m good. I know how to do this.'”

For more tidbits about the creation of Empire, listen to the full interview with Danny Strong.

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