Air Date: Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Time Slot: 9:00 PM-11:00 PM EST on ABC
Episode Title: (#101/102) "Pilot/Will"
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Stellar International Cast Features Jonathan Cake and Santiago Cabrera

Trudie Styler Also Appears in the Lavish Six-Hour Series

"Empire," an epic six-hour summer drama series from the executive producers of the Academy Award-winning "Chicago," will have a special two-hour premiere, TUESDAY, JUNE 28 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. The sweeping limited drama series, filmed entirely in Rome and South Central Italy, focuses on Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavius - the boy destined to become the Emperor Augustus, one of the most influential leaders in world history -- who is forced into exile after Caesar's murder, and on a fictional disgraced gladiator, Tyrannus, who has sworn to protect him.

The other four one-hour episodes are slated to air on successive Tuesday nights -- "Arkham" (July 5), "The Hunt" (July 12), "Fortune's Fool" (July 19) and "The Lost Legion" (July 26; series finale) -- all from 10:00-11:00 p.m., ET.

"Empire" features a stellar international cast led by Jonathan Cake ("First Knight," Hallmark's "Noah's Ark," TV's upcoming "Inconceivable") and Santiago Cabrera ("Haven"), with guest and recurring stars including Dennis Haysbert ("24") and Trudie Styler ("Friends," "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister"). It is one of the most lavish and technically complex series ever to air on ABC in primetime. "Empire" is being executive-produced by award-winning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows," "The Beach Boys: An American Family," "Brian's Song," ABC's "Annie," "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" and the Oscar-winning "Chicago"), multiple award-winner Tony Jonas ("Queer as Folk," "Leap Years"), Chip Johannessen ("24," "The X-Files,") and Thomas Wheeler ("The Prometheus Project," "The Mission"), who is also the series creator.

The time is 44 B.C. and the Conqueror Julius Caesar (Colm Feore, "Chicago," "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself"; currently seen as Cassius in "Julius Caesar" on Broadway) returns from triumphs in Spain to a neglected Republic and a corrupt Senate drunk with power. Though he's hailed as a hero by the masses, the Senate is wary of Caesar's plans that might place him in a position of ultimate power. Brutus (James Frain, "24," USA Network's "Spartacus," "Arabian Nights") and Cassius (Michael Maloney, Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet," "Painted Lady") try to enlist the help of Marc Antony (Vincent Regan, "Troy," "Joan of Arc") in overthrowing Caesar, but Marc Antony is loyal to Caesar and refuses. A terrible conflict looms and the fate of an empire will fall to one man - a gladiator named Tyrannus.

Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake), Rome's finest warrior, is undefeated in the arena and considered a champion among men. A slave since he was a young man, Tyrannus impresses Caesar with his fighting prowess and his popularity, and with his dedication to Rome. Caesar offers him freedom in return for his service and friendship. However the Senate puts up a vicious fight for power and manages to separate Caesar from Tyrannus' protective grasp by sending the gladiator to one last match to the death. Cassius and Brutus have Tyrannus' son, Piso, kidnapped. Tyrannus rushes to his son's rescue and kills the kidnappers, only to realize that the abduction is a diversion. He hurries to Caesar's side, but it is too late. His absence results in Brutus successfully leading a group of conspirators in assassinating the great conqueror. As he is drawing his last breath, Caesar swears Tyrannus to an oath to protect his successor, Octavius (Santiago Cabrera), his 18-year-old nephew.

Tyrannus and Octavius are forced into exile to protect the young man from those who would sever Caesar's bloodline once and for all. They are joined by Agrippa (Chris Egan, upcoming feature film "Alpha Male," Australian series "Home & Away"), a young soldier, and by Camane (Emily Blunt, upcoming feature film "My Summer of Love," "Warrior Queen"), a Vestal Virgin from the powerful religious Order whose members are being hunted down for trying to save Octaviu. Together they will help Octavius fulfill his destiny. He leaves Rome an impetuous boy, but he will return at the head of an invading army seeking a final showdown with Marc Antony. But will Octavius be restored to Caesar's throne as Emperor?

In the first hour of the premiere, "Pilot," Caesar watches as the slave and gladiator, Tyrannus, slaughters his competitors, unaware that Cassius and Brutus -- Caesar's "friends" -- plan to assassinate him shortly, an event foretold by the psychic vestal virgin, Carmane. After the assassination, Caesar's murderers seek to take over the empire, but standing in their way is a will naming Caesar's nephew, Octavius, as heir. Keeping a promise made to Caesar, Tyrannus spirits Octavius away from those who now want him dead.

In the second hour, entitled "Will," Marc Antony addresses the crowd at Caesar's funeral, where a shroud hides the deceased leader's stab wounds. Octavius' mother, Atia, recently imprisoned by Cassius, is allowed to speak at Caesar's funeral, but she tells the wild crowd that her son is Caesar's true heir. Meanwhile Camane, the psychic vestal virgin, has put her own life at risk by guarding the will, and Tyrannus, fearing for Octavius' life, once again takes the young heir away from the turbulence of Rome.

"Empire" stars Santiago Cabrera as Octavius, Vincent Regan as Marc Antony, Emily Blunt as Camane, James Frain as Brutus and Jonathan Cake as Tyrannus.

Guest-starring in "Pilot" are Michael Maloney as Cassius, Michael Byrne as Cicero, Orla Brady as Atia, Amanda Root as Noella, Ian Bartholomew as Cimber, Michael Culkin as Lucius and Colm Feore as Julius Caesar. Co-starring are Sylvia DeFanti as Moira, Fillipo Reda as Piso, Jean Marie Paris as the Reterian and Jonas Bascir as Drax.

Guest-starring in "Will" are Michael Maloney as Cassius, Michael Byrne as Cicero, Trudie Styler as Servilia, Orla Brady as Atia, Graham McTavish as General Rapax, Amanda Root as Noella, Ian Bartholomew as Cimber and Alan David as Quinitilius. Co-starring are Stephanie Leonidas as girlfriend and Edoardo Trowse as rough youth.

"Empire" is executive-produced by Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Tony Jonas, Chip Johannessen and series creator Tom Wheeler. Jacobus Rose and Carrie Henderson are the producers. Greg Yaitanes ("Line of Fire," "Cold Case," "CSI Miami") directed "Pilot" and "Will" from scripts by Tom Wheeler and Chip Johannessen, respectively. The series is produced by Taranus LTD., in association with Storyline Entertainment, and is distributed by Touchstone Television. This program carries a TV-14,V parental guideline.

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