Last night’s episode of Empire was particularly poignant as it heavily focused on Andre’s bipolar condition which was highlighted by a powerful scene that Trai Byers shared with his on-screen brothers in a broken down elevator.
TVLine recently caught up with Byers to discuss the episode and why Andre is the only Lyon who has seemingly avoided Cookie’s return altogether.
On whether Lucious really is against Andre & Rhonda’s relationship…
“I think he does have a problem with the relationship. Lucious, we have to remember, is very calculated and very calculating. That [disapproval] is something that he’s held onto for a while — and now he can play that card. It’s useful for him to play that card, especially when he’s been saving everything for Hakeem for the long haul. Jamal is starting to step up in ways that Lucious did not anticipate. And I don’t know that he ever envisioned Andre… in Episode One, the first conversation that we had with Andre and Lucious fighting, Lucious said, “Don’t you think the celebrity-driven brand should be driven by a celebrity?” He believes in that wholeheartedly.”
“But why wouldn’t Andre get the business? He’s the most able. He went to school for it. He brought his resources back. He’s the reason that they are successfully able to apply for an IPO to become a Fortune 500 Company. I feel like Andre’s always been different but useful: Keep him in the position that he’s at now, he’s like the forever CFO, while his brother rises above. It’s very selfish of Lucious. I don’t completely understand it, but in episodes to come, we may or may not learn another reason why Lucious doesn’t want Andre to be the head of the empire.”
On the powerful elevator scene…
“We didn’t really work it out together ahead of time. What we did, the brothers, we sang “Lean on Me.” We kept singing it. We kept singing it, and that was the best thing to do — because you can’t lose the love. Love is what kept that elevator intact and if it had not been for love, Andre would have ripped through both of them.”
“So you have love, but at the same time, there are so many mixed emotions. There’s so much history that they have. It’s beautiful that Jamal remembered a song to calm Andre down from his [episode]. Andre is going a mile a minute. Not even a mile, a hundred miles a minute. The love is there, but the hurt is there, but the pain is there, but the excitement is there. It’s the height of mania and it’s the lowest point of depression and it’s failure. It’s one of those scenes, again, where we relied on one another. It’s in the face and in the eyes. We’re so tight-knit, the cast, and we love each other. Jussie and Yazz, those are my brothers.
Everything that’s happened from the beginning of the series to this point is expressed [in that scene], but you find something different, and you find softness, too. “You’re the oldest brother. It’s your responsibility to take care of them — and now you’re tearing them apart. Wait a minute. Hold on. If you don’t do it, they could take what’s yours.” I mean, these thoughts are going in my head — and at the same time you’re seeing the faces of Lucious and Cookie and her being taken away and you don’t know if you’ll ever see her again. At some point, you just act like you don’t have a mother. You don’t have a father. You don’t have brothers. It’s just you there by yourself with your wife and Uncle Vernon. It’s hurtful.
The picture, [the group hug], that you see at the end of the elevator scene, is where we should have been, where we could have been, maybe one day we’ll be, but ultimately, it’s all up in the air. Still, the love is there. I think that’s what’s meant to showcase.”
On why we have seen so little interaction between Andre and Cookie…
“The relationship is very strained with Andre and Cookie. Cookie, she recognizes Andre as picking himself up by the boot straps and getting educated — and she feels a certain way about not being a part of that. And he feels like he’s abandoned, basically, by his mother when she goes away and he has to fend for himself. That’s a hard pill to swallow and something to get over. They’re working on it. There might be something to look forward in the future involving the two of them while they’re working through their issues as mother and son.”
To read the entire interview, visit TVLine.com