CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - ‘Empire’ would not be the musical that it is without the musicians on the show. And because it's filmed in Chicago, a bunch of Chicagoans have had the chance to be on the show and even play live.
FOX 32 went to the set of ‘Empire’ in Chicago and talked to the man who hires the artists, who are now having the time of their lives.
Identical twins Liza and Dina Micelli have been writing and performing their own music for years.
Dina is a drummer and Liza plays piano.
And as for Mel Washington, he performs and teaches guitar.
"I’m currently teaching private guitar lessons at music store flats and sharps and allegro music academy," he said.
And then there's Kelsee Vandervall, who plays the cello.
"I’ve been freelancing. I graduated in 2013 from Columbia College," she said.
But they're all now part of a music empire, hired by City Lights Orchestra musical director Rich Daniels, who has been booking talent for network TV shows shot in Chicago for years.
"This is the 4th show, which is far and away the largest experience any of us have seen for commercial television in Chicago, perhaps ever," Daniels said.
He put out a casting call for real musicians, and everyone wanted in.
"Very often they're accompanying Jussie Smollet who plays Jamal, or some of the guest stars last year such as Snoop Dog or Jennifer Hudson or Patti Labelle,” Daniels said. “The really great part is when I get to play Santa Claus and tell them you've got a part. They’re thrilled. They get out of their skin excited."
"I got a phone call or email from Rich a couple of weeks later and I was absolutely shocked. Couldn’t believe it," Washington said.
"I remember stopping when I read the email, like… (makes a face) (laughter)," Vandervall said.
Much of the time they're acting, but these musicians recently got very real with Jamal.
“We got the chance to play live in the studio with the actors. It was amazing," Liza said.
“We learn that music. I write those charts out. Every single note. So yeah, we gotta be prepared for whatever they ask us," Dina added.
Vanderall has been on three episodes so far.
"My family has freaked out. They’ve been very supportive. Very excited," she said.
Washington has been on three and even met Terrance Howard.
"He wanted to play my guitar, but sadly for him it was left handed,” Washington said.
“He’s a very nice guy. Great musician. He sat down at a harpsicord and was noodling and it was phenomenal," he added.
And then there’s Liza and Dina, who have been on a combined 9 episodes.
All of this is perhaps preparing them to one day have their own musical empire.