Although its Season 3 ratings aren't anywhere near the astronomic, record-breaking heights they were in its first year, FOX's Empire is still the highest-rated show on broadcast television — so it was only a matter of time before the network tried to capitalize on its success. Indeed, it was announced last year that Empire creator Lee Daniels (the Oscar-nominated director of Precious) would be developing a second musical drama for the network… and now, over 12 months later, new FOX series Star is finally about to hit the airwaves this Wednesday. When they tune in to the series premiere, viewers might find themselves wondering: Is Star based on a true story?
The upcoming series will introduce viewers to a three-person girl group as they struggle to rise from nobodies to… yes, stars. A creator and original pop tunes aren't the only things Star has in common with Empire : "Both Star and Empire take place in the modern-day music business, which means the possibility of a crossover exists between Daniels' two shows," Vulture reported back from the Television Critics Association press tour in August 2015. So if Star and Empire exist in the same world, and Empire is loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear , then is it safe to assume that Star is also based on the works of the Bard?
Not necessarily. Although Star does have some roots in the real world, they don't appear to be Shakespearean in nature. Rather, according to Vulture, Daniels took "inspiration from the real-life stories of contemporary girl groups, which have been manufactured by the music business." ("It lends itself to a great, soap-operatic TV show," Fox Television CEO Dana Walden promised the crowd.) But which groups in particular is the story of Star, Alex, and Simone based on? "It's based on LaBelle, it's based on the Supremes, it's based on TLC, it's based on Destiny’s Child," Daniels said at the TCA panel, per The Wrap.
But world-famous singing celebrities aren't the only source material that Daniels pulled from, either. Just like the characters in Empire were inspired by members of his own family, Star is shaping up to be another incredibly personal show for the Oscar nominee. "There’s a lot from Lee’s own life baked into the DNA of this project," Vulture reported Walden as saying at the TCA panel. Indeed, Daniels himself backed up this assertion in an interview with Billboard this past September. He told the magazine:
"When I was 16, I stole my mother's Eldorado, and I snuck into Dreamgirls on Broadway. I haven't been affected by anything in that way until I saw Hamilton. Dreamgirls affected African-Americans. Denzel Washington said Dreamgirls was the reason he was in the business. So when I decided to put Star together, I started thinking about movies and situations that have influenced me."
But there's one more piece of the puzzle that is Star… and that's its star, appropriately enough. Daniels told Billboard that he wrote the role of beauty salon owner and surrogate mother Carlotta Brown specifically with Queen Latifah in mind, and praised everything the singer-turned-actress has to bring to the table. "She's a true crossover, similar to what Diana Ross accomplished in the '60s," he told the magazine. "Yet she remains a girl from the 'hood. And her voice — she sings gospel in our first number, but a new type of gospel. We'll also hear her sing some R&B and do some classic and current rap."
Between Latifah's career, the stories of real-life girl groups, the themes of Dreamgirls, and Daniel's own life, it seems like there's plenty of material for the man to pull from as he writes the 13-episode first season of Star — and it sounds like there will be something in it for pretty much everyone to connect to. Seems like FOX has the makings of another hit on its hands…
Images: Annette Brown, Wilford Harewood/FOX