The following excerpt is from an article originally written and published on Chicago Defender. The article, "Chicago's Talent Behind 'Empire,'" features several crew members of the hit TV show. Joe 'Jody' Williams is a 1998 MFA graduate of Ohio University Film.
Since he was in his early teens, “Empire” camera operator Joe ‘Jody’ Williams can recall his fascination with working with a camera. “My grandfather used to shoot home movies of our family with the super 8 camera. He would project them at his home all the time. I would help him set up the projector. I remember that experience as being a fulfilling one—just seeing images of my family, myself as a baby. On the weekends we would set it up, watching, laughing and listening to my grandparents with their running dialogue over the pictures,” Williams said. He grew up in Cleveland and he went on to attend Ohio University where he earned his Bachelors and Masters degree in film.
After relocating to Chicago where he eventually connected with other Black filmmakers creating indie films and documentaries including Barbara Allen’s “The Paper Trail” he eventually struck up a working relationship with production manager, Richard Lederer. Lederer reached out to him to work on the pilot for “Empire.” “I can’t recall the first job where we actually met. However, I’ve worked on a lot production jobs here with him so he gave me a call over a year ago to come interview with the Director of Photography.” Unfortunately, Williams was on assignment working out of town on another film project but when the series was picked up by Fox, he reached out for the opportunity to be a part of the production crew.