Fox’s New Hit “Empire” Puts a Spotlight on ALS

After airing previews for what seemed like an eternity, Fox finally debuted their new show “Empire” at the beginning of the year. With the heavy promotion and big names both in front of and behind the camera, the show was expected to be a big success.

Less expected was the direction the show went with its lead character. In the very first episode, Lucious Lyon (played by Academy Award Nominee Terrance Howard) discovers he has ALS.

Choosing an Heir

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s King Lear and James Goldman’s The Lion of Winter, Empire revolves around a fictional record company ran by Howard’s Lucious Lyon. Upon learning his diagnosis, Lucious realizes he has to decide whom to pass his musical “empire” to.

From there, the plot devolves into more traditional soap-opera drama and scheming.

Nevertheless, Empire is proving to be a big success both critically and commercially. So what does this mean for ALS? We have a hit TV show on one of TV’s top networks where the star character has this fatal condition.

At the very least, awareness will be raised. But how faithfully will the condition be portrayed?

How ALS Works

ALS is a degenerative condition that affects the neurons of the body, leading to loss of muscle strength and control. Those who have it ultimately suffer from lack of mobility as well as trouble speaking, swallowing, and even breathing.

Most who are diagnosed with ALS are given about 3 years to live. Some even less than that. Around 10{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} of those with ALS live beyond 10 years their initial diagnosis.

Currently, there is no cure for ALS, and treatment is limited.

All of this has lead many to speculate where the show will go. While there are a number of familiar names and faces in Empire’s cast, Howard’s is certainly the most recognizable. The initial effects of ALS often work very fast, resulting in loss of walking ability and general coordination.

Will this mean that Howard’s character will be using a wheelchair by the end of this season?  Is he going to start riding around in luxury wheelchair vans?  Will he lose his ability to speak?  How will this condition affect his relationships with the other characters of the show?

When asked about whether or not this meant Terrance Howard’s time on the show was limited, co-creator Danny Strong has been quoted as saying the following:

“While it may seem like the show’s writers have painted themselves into a corner by giving their lead character, Lucious, a terminal illness … well, just wait. “My response [to that] is always watch and find out.”

This has only seemed to further the speculation as to how long the character will last. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is not only one of the most famous people to have ALS but also the longest living. He has had the condition for more than 50 years.

Perhaps this is the direction the show runners will go.

Whatever the case, Empire doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. After debuting at around 9 million in January, the show is currently bringing in over 14 million viewers and has already been renewed for a second season.

Click the video below to view a scene of Howard’s Lucious Lyon revealing his condition to his girlfriend.

Do you watch Empire?  Where do you think the show will go from here?

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