The first season of Empire is quickly topping the charts and fans want to know everything about it. Downloading the music is easy enough, but how does one truly emerge in the world that the show creates? For example, where exactly does Empire take place? You would think that a show about the music industry would take place in Los Angeles. However, a show with such a classic, epic feel needs classic, epic locations to match.
The series takes place on the East Coast, primarily in two cities. While most of the present-day scenes take place in New York City, Empire's flashbacks occur in Philadelphia. You couldn't have Empire set anywhere other than the Empire State. That said, Lee Daniels, the co-creator of Empire, is from Philadelphia himself. Is the "City of Brotherly Love" significant for this show's subject matter? You bet your bottom dollar.
If that weren't confusing enough, the Fox series films in Chicago. The Windy City and its surrounding suburbs stand in for both the streets of New York, Philadelphia, and their surrounding country. Here's a breakdown of where you can place the drama at any different time on the show. Start planning your Empire tour now!
New York City
The majority of the series takes place in New York. That's where Empire Enterprises is and where the Lyons are currently residing. Remember when Cookie told Titan's mother that she didn't feel like she was home, even when she got out of prison? I am not surprised! New York City was where Lucious Lyon escaped to in order to build his empire. It was never home for Cookie.
Manhattan isn't the only NYC location on the show. Jamal moved out to Brooklyn with his boyfriend Michael — Bushwick, to be more specific. Titan, the imprisoned rapper that Lucius wanted to sign, was being held in the borough as well.
The flashbacks, on the other hand, mostly take place in Philadelphia where Cookie and Lucious met and raised their three boys. As much as I like to pretend that the prison Cookie was released from is Litchfield from Orange Is The New Black, she was also in Pennsylvania for all of those years. In the flashback to Cookie's arrest in the episode "Dangerous Bonds," you can see Cookie crouching behind a Pennsylvania license plate.
However, that does explain why Agent Carter is so easily able to find Cookie and whisk her away to Grand Jury hearings at any given moment. One could argue that her trial is being moved to New York because of Frank. If the FBI is involved, that transcends state lines anyway. Though, I guess Philadelphia and New York aren't that far apart. Maybe I shouldn't be nitpicking at this point.
In the present, Cookie's sister lives in Philadelphia and Bunky's funeral took place there, as well as the man that Cookie and her sister hired to take out Frank. Philadelphia is almost a fantasy land on Empire. It serves as an escape for the now New York-based Lyon family.
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