A class action lawsuit was filed against several Fox media companies for creating a harmful atmosphere at a Chicago juvenile detention center for its young residents during the production of Empire, a television drama that generates millions in ad revenue.
“The purpose of these lockdowns was to provide Fox with a realistic prison facility to use as the primary set of two highly profitable Empire episodes,” the lawsuit contends. “The children at JTDC, meanwhile, were placed under restrictions more severe than those governing many adult jails.”
Additionally, attorneys for the class of plaintiffs allege Fox producers influenced jail officials to place the center on lockdown and forced children in their cells in order to create a realistic set.
“The Fox Defendants deliberately encouraged the Government Defendants to improperly place the JTDC on lockdown during the filming of Empire, for commercial benefit,” the lawsuit argues. “The actions, omissions, and conduct of the Defendants as set forth in this complaint were extreme and outrageous.”
Cook County, and JTDC superintendent Leonard Dixon are also named as defendants in the suit.
The lawsuit alleges the young inmates were forced to remain in their cells without any access to the recreation center, chapel, classes or the library. They were also restricted from visitation while Fox shot several episodes.
Season 2 of Empire began last season with 16.2 million viewers for its premier and 13.2 million for episode 2.
The class represents over 400 people, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Guardians of two former juvenile inmates of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Illinois initiated the suit. They allege Empire shot scenes in June for six days for the first two episodes of season 2 and four days in both July and August.
“Numerous areas that are essential to the JTDC’s mission of educating and rehabilitating the children housed there — including the JTDC’s school, its facilities for family visits, its only outdoor recreation yard, its library, and its chapel — were placed off limits so that Fox’s agents and employees could use them to stage and film the show,” according to the complaint, obtained by Dealine.
The lawsuit below asks for unspecified monetary damages plus a portion of profits from the hit show.