August 25, 2016 3:21 pm

‘Empire’ hit with lawsuit over filming at juvenile detention centre

The 'Empire' cast poses with the Outstanding Drama Series award in the press room during the 47th NAACP Image Awards on February 5, 2016 in Pasadena, California.

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With Season 3 of Fox’s hit show, Empire, just weeks away, the show now has to deal with some off-screen drama to match its onscreen insanity.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed, alleging that real prisoners at a Chicago juvenile detention centre were mistreated so the show could play make-believe.

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“The Fox Defendants deliberately encouraged the Government Defendants to improperly place the JTDC on lockdown during the filming of Empire, for commercial benefit,” says the wide-ranging lawsuit from two now-former residents of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Centre, where Empire was filming Terrence Howard’s Lucious-in-prison plot.

READ MORE: In courtroom and witness chair, ‘Empire’ star Terrence Howard is forced to confront his past

Filming took place over three separate multi-day periods in summer 2015 and the inmates were restricted to their pods. They were not allowed to attend normal classes or recreational activities, and access to the chapel library and family visits were restricted.

The suit also alleges that additional filming days were added because the show originally portrayed Chris Rock’s character as a cannibal, but the network declined that idea and demanded re-shoots.

“The actions, omissions, and conduct of the Defendants as set forth in this complaint were extreme and outrageous,” the filing adds.

It also notes that while residents were in “psychologically damaging” situations of being kept in their cells or crammed into a dayroom with nothing to do, Empire was filming episodes that would earn it “$750,000 per 30-second advertising spot in Episode 1, and $600,000 per 30-second spot in Episode 2.”

READ MORE: Chris Rock’s Asian-American kids gag at Oscars reveals Hollywood’s diversity woes

The claim, filed by two unidentified juvenile former residents on behalf of up to 400 other class members, names Twentieth Century Fox Television, Inc., Fox Broadcasting Company, Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc., Fox Entertainment Group, Inc., Fox Networks Group, Inc., and Fox Television Group, as well as Cook County and the centre’s superintendent.

The plaintiffs are seeking the profits Fox made from the filming of the first two Season 2 episodes that took place at the centre.

This is just one of a number of lawsuits Empire is currently dealing with.

Last week, a federal judge rejected a motion by Fox, Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and others to dismiss Sophia Eggleton’s case that the Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of Cookie Lyon is based on Eggleton and her 2009 memoir.

There is also an action by Howard’s former managers over unpaid Empire commissions they say the actor owes them (they allegedly prevented Howard’s firing from the show).

Season 3 of Empire returns to Fox in the U.S. and Shomi in Canada on Sept. 21.

© 2016 Global News, a division or Corus Entertainment Inc.

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