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Fox Sued By Inmates For Filming Of Hit Show Empire


Inmates at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago are suing Fox, claiming they were locked up in their dorms for days so that the show Empire could film in 2015. 

Empire star Terrance Howard (left) and comedian Chris Rock (right) in a screenshot from season 2. (Fox promotional shot)

Empire filmed the first two episodes of its second season at the juvenile hall, which focused on main character Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) fall from grace.

Fox tried to get the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that they were not responsible for the lockdown, but U.S. district judge Amy J. St. Eve ruled on Monday (Oct. 23) that it could proceed against the network on two points. <


St. Eve wrote in her decision that there was enough evidence spelled out in the lawsuit for the case to move forward on the basis that Fox may have ‘colluded’ with the jail officials to cause the lock down and that they may have unjustly profited from it. 

Empire was a hit during its first season, so its season two premiere and second episode were highly anticipated. The network charged $750,000 for a 30-second ad in the premiere and $600,000 for the same amount of ad time in the second episode. 

The lawsuit was filed last year by the legal guardians of two of the inmates. 

Fox filmed the first two episodes of the second season at the jail, prompting three days of lockdowns so the crew could work. During these lockdowns, inmates were only allowed in their rooms or their ‘pods’ – dormitory-style common areas in the middle of a group of cells. They weren’t allowed to go outside to the recreation yard, read in the library, pray in the chapel or even take classes in the school.

Family visits were cancelled and their requests to go to the infirmary were also ignored, the lawsuit claims. 

Being forced to stay in their pods ‘for days on end’ was a restriction ‘more severe than those governing many adult jails,’ the lawsuit reads. 

The inmates involved in the class-action lawsuit initially claimed that Fox infringed on their due process rights, but St. Eve said Fox would not be held responsible for such violations. That case continues against Cook County officials however.

The detention center has made headlines in the past for its troubles. In 2015, the Chicago Tribune wrote that the center has a ‘reputation for being crowded, unclean and poorly staffed’ and that it was often ‘blasted as a depot where children were locked up in violent, unsanitary, overcrowded conditions’.

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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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