If you've been dreading Wednesday night since you learned that Empire Season 2 will be on hiatus until Nov. 4, you're not alone. Mostly because Empire Season 2 has been equally as consuming as its first season and because one of the series' MVPs is finally getting more screen time these days. There was a significant — but necessary, according to actress Kaitlin Doubleday — lack of Rhonda on Empire Season 1, but Season 2 is quickly turning her into one of the series' most important characters. "There are going to be some new alliances in these upcoming episodes that we’re going to see — that I’m excited for people to see," Doubleday tells Bustle. And, on a series that's consistently challenging TV as we knew it, no one should underestimate Rhonda when Season 2 finally returns.
"Rhonda’s going to work at Empire and that’s super exciting," Doubleday says and she means it. Season 1 spent most of its time delving into what made Rhonda and Andre's relationship work — something that both she and on-screen husband Trai Byers enjoyed. "Both Trai Byers and I come from very heavy acting backgrounds, so we liked exploring our relationship and talking about it and developing the back story," she says, but Season 2 is all about setting Rhonda up as the independent, successful woman she is. And, for Doubleday, that's just one of the things she's grateful for in this role.
"It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience," the actress says about her role as the only white main character on Empire, "It’s fascinating to be a part of something that’s changing television and making a lot more shows get green-lit." Doubleday acknowledges that, in an environment that generally casts men as "powerful, crazy, and scary main characters," it makes it even more special to be a part of a series that is working change that by presenting fans with powerful, sometimes scary female main characters — like Rhonda and Taraji P. Henson's undeniable Cookie Lyon.
"I never thought that Rhonda would be so powerful and wearing the pants in the relationship," the actress says, "It’s definitely different than most of the other roles that I’ve played." And its Rhonda's strength that's made her relationship with Andre something wildly interesting to watch evolve. "I never felt that Rhonda was just Andre’s love interest," Doubleday says about her character in Season 1.
In fact, everyone behind the scenes knew that Rhonda and Andre were actually the most successful relationship on the show. "There are so many roles that are, you know, the girlfriend or the hot b*tch or the sexpot and there’s not much substance," Doubleday says, "But to be sort of in charge and the powerful one in the relationship was so exciting."
But now that we've established Rhonda and Andre's "ride-or-die" relationship, fans can really get ready to see more of Rhonda. "This season, I’m excited to see where Rhonda fits in the rest of the story and the rest of the family and what that’ll be like for her," Doubleday says. Because — and I know there are no Empire fans out there that would disagree — Rhonda finally standing up to Lucious at the end of Season 1 was just the tip of the iceberg for her.
"I think everyone really appreciated that episode," the actress says, "I had so many people come up to me on street and tell me that they loved that I stood up for myself and that I was a tough chick and a bad ass." Between Rhonda and Cookie, the newest addition to the Lyon squad clearly has some seriously awesome role models, especially now that Rhonda could become the new HBIC at Empire.
Image: Chuck Hodes/FOX (2)