What ‘Star’ & ‘Empire’s Shared Universe Could Mean For Both Shows

by Alexis Reliford
Chuck Hodes/FOX

While both Fox shows have to do with the music business, Star isn't exactly a spinoff of Empire. But in the Season 2 premiere of Star, Big Trouble gets a taste of the high-glamour world of the Lyons. And the Season 4 premiere of Empire reveals a connection between Lucious Lyon and Carlotta Brown that was previously unknown to fans.

On Empire, Big Trouble's manager Carlotta meets the equally fabulous Cookie Lyon on the heels of Empire Entertainment's 20th Anniversary Celebration. Before this meeting, viewers had no idea that the women of Star even existed in the same universe as the Lyons, let alone that they would meet each other. But this crossover sets the stage for the possibility of many more.

Viewers quickly find out that Carlotta isn't just a fan who stumbles past security to speak with a complete stranger. In fact, she knows Lucious better than anyone thought. Back in the day when Carlotta was in the R&B duo Mixed Harmony with Star and Simone's mother Mary, she sang back up for Lucious. Too bad Lucious doesn't remember any of this thanks to the memory loss triggered by last season's explosion. Cookie isn't exactly convinced that Carlotta is just an old friend, so maybe there's more to this connection than meets the eye. Their interaction makes me wonder just how famous Carlotta used to be and what exactly happened to her early career. How did she go from singing with Lucious to owning a hair salon in Atlanta?

A confused Lucious faintly agrees to help out Carlotta and her girls in the future. Does this mean Big Trouble will be walking the halls of Empire soon? Maybe.

Wilford Harewood/FOX

Following that premiere, the Lyons' middle child Jamal, makes a guest appearance on Star, where he meets and mingles with Carlotta’s group. Hey, maybe Lucious did come through on his shaky promise to help the girls out. Star, Alex, and Simone perform a cover of Jamal's “You’re So Beautiful," first heard way back in Empire Season 1. But, despite their catchy performances and victory at the Atlanta NextFest last season, the group continues to face roadblock after roadblock and could desperately use some help getting their careers off the ground. While Jamal’s future on the sister series is unclear, here’s hoping that he’ll lend his talents and star power to the struggling ladies. Just imagine how amazing a collaboration between all four of them would be.

While, the overlap of these shows seems like a pretty obvious step, Lee Daniels, co-creator of both, wasn’t originally sold on the idea. "It wasn’t the intent initially because they were two separate shows," he told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, per The Hollywood Reporter. "I never saw Star as part of Empire ever. It's its own entity and another part of my life that I was trying to explore as an artist, but then Fox suggested it and then it sort of seemed logical so I just went with the flow."

But Carlotta actor Queen Latifah said she'd always known the crossover would take place. "I always saw us crossing over," she added at the same panel. "That was in my brain from day one: 'One day that could happen'."

Star follows the lives of three Atlanta-based singers and their gritty journey to the top of the music industry, while Empire shows what it's like to be in a family that’s already made their mark. "We both deal in the music industry. Most of our characters have checkered pasts," Latifah told Variety. "I love the fact that we come from different worlds and these shows can maintain autonomy yet cross over."

Both shows feature strong female leads whose fierce personalities keep everyone around them on their toes. “The main difference is that Cookie has success and money, and Carlotta doesn’t,” Latifah said to Variety in the same interview. “Carlotta’s empire is much, much smaller."

But, who knows? Things might all change for Carlotta and the girls on this season of Star with the Lyons in their corner.