Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken previously told The Hollywood Reporter that “the best relationship — the most loving relationship — is between two people who are pretty dark and twisted,” referring to Andre (Trai Byers) and Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday). But Rhonda just signed Andre over for a psychiatric hold, effectively giving herself a lot of power within Empire Entertainment as his proxy for the time he is away.
“I never thought about it that way!” Doubleday tells The Hollywood Reporter of Rhonda’s motivations. “I think she’s really heartbroken. I think the idea that her husband is gone [means] her world is shattered because everything is Empire [for them]. They’re power hungry, but without him, she’s not working; she doesn’t go in every morning; she can never take his place. She wants him to get better and go back to work! She needs him at that freaking company so he can run [it]. It’s everything they worked for for the past 10 years.”
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Everything Andre and Rhonda worked for, though, is threatened to be out of their grasp now that his family has been forced to confront just how bad his disease can be when he’s not on his meds. THR spoke with Doubleday about all of that and has an exclusive sneak peek of what to expect from Wednesday’s episode, “Sins of the Father,” below.
How did Andre and Rhonda become such a strong team?
Rhonda came from nothing — from a white trash family — and Andre was kind of ostracized from his family. They went to U Penn, where they met, and I think that she was smart enough in her white trash family to get straight As and know that she was going to leave it [and them]. Andre was alone and needed her. They were kind of two lone wolves that became super attached.
Andre has had some real bass in his voice a couple of times when he’s been in his disease and not wanting to deal with Rhonda trying to help him. Yet she never flinches, clearly never believing he’d ever actually hurt her.
She’s not scared of him at all. She knows he wouldn’t be able to function without her. Even if Andre had a best friend on the show or anybody else — an ally — maybe that would be different. But he spends his time with Rhonda or working, and that’s it. And this has happened for so long, over all of these years, they’re such a unit. He had a breakdown really early on in their relationship, and she’s sort of the only person that he’s ever been super close to. Everything they do, they do together.
Why do you think Rhonda is so willing to do so much for Andre? At times it almost seems like she’s sacrificing parts of herself for him, like spending so much time in a family and a company that is led by a man who doesn’t respect her or welcome her.
Here’s the way I look at it: when I heard Lucious said the “white bitch” thing or whatever, I was surprised; I didn’t see it coming really because there have been a lot of times where we’ve cheersed at his dinner or he invited Andre and Rhonda over for this or that, so when we realized that that element was going to be added to the show, it’s kind of like, she knows that he was a drug dealer. Obviously he’s a talented rapper and he got to the top [on that], but he’s a drug dealer who was a bad father, so she looks at it like, “I don’t respect your dad at all. He’s just a necessary evil for us taking over this company that, in my opinion, you built.” She’s a social climber, essentially, and she will smile and nod; she’ll take it, but she doesn’t respect him. If he hates her, she doesn’t care. It’s not like he’ll get Andre from her. He’s never going to win.
Has there been a moment where you’ve just wanted Rhonda to say, “Screw it, we’re going to take our talents and our knowledge to another company?”
It sounds easier than it would actually be! (Laughs.) I get that, “Go work somewhere else; you’re Wharton educated!” But you’re Wharton educated and you’re bipolar and you don’t take your meds, and your father literally owns a billion-dollar company that has his hands in [everything]. Leaving that literal empire, he would feel completely alone, and I think without the job and what he’s done to get there, he wouldn’t have any relationship with his family, and that would make him feel [worse].
Be sure to watch this exclusive sneak peek at “Sins of the Father” here:
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.