“Empire” on Fox is the runaway blockbuster television series of the year, by far, and an instant cultural phenomenon that’s captured the American imagination. With the increased shine on the show, the ever-growing legion of fans’ curiosity in the cast members has also grown.
Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal is a young musician who is struggling emotionally to come to terms with his homosexuality amid the hostility exhibited by his TV father Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard. The intrigue in his personal life was ratcheted up when Smollett gave an ambiguous answer when asked if he was also gay in real life on “Sway in the Morning” radio show:
“I’m not willing to confirm or deny anything. I live my life. I don’t hide anything, I just don’t choose to talk about my personal life.”
That was sufficient for fans who exhibit a ravenous appetite for the drama and shocking twists and turns that “Empire” provides
But then fellow co-star Malik Yoba answered whether Smollett is actually gay during his recent interview with Black Film.
Hit the flip to see what Yoba had to say:
According to Black Film:
Black Film: What’s the feeling like being on a hit show?
Malik Yoba: Yeah. It’s good, man. It’s definitely good to be part of a show. Especially, this particularly show, but especially when all the predictors are there before it all happens. I knew that this would happen so I wasn’t surprised.
The show has the DNA of ‘New York Undercover’ for me and I was part of something that was revolutionary and groundbreaking twenty years ago. For me, from the beginning it was like déjà vu. So, with all the accolades and the love that it’s getting, it’s crazy. I’ve had that experience before. It’s just nice to know that people have finally decided if you put people who are underrepresented on television they’re going to show up to see themselves. And if it’s smart, if it’s funny, it has the right music and has the right fashion and has the right attitude then you’re going to win. You’ll win every time. It’s one of those things that you feel like, obviously, it’s great performances and music, and it’s a great cast. It’s all those things. But I think it speaks to a larger issue, which is people want to see themselves.
BF: You’re the veteran of the group here, having experienced this nearly twenty years ago. Have you been telling these people as much as they’re seeing the love that it’s getting from its ratings wise and everything else, and said, ‘Okay, it’s great. But let’s make it last’?
Yoba: I just think that you have to move with integrity. You have to move with a larger sense of purpose. Because that is Malik Yoba’s personal philosophy. I don’t do this business for fame or money. I do it for purpose.
I think that our show represents a huge opportunity to stay in the culture beyond entertainment value and there’s an intrinsic nature of you have the gay factor, right? So, obviously, Lee is gay. That was an important storyline for him. I think it’s important for people to see themselves. Even within the Black community. But if you aren’t really, really taking it off of screen and making it live in the community in a significant way…like I know Jussie, he is gay, and he’s very committed to issues around the LGBT community. He and I have a very close relationship. There a lot of things that I’m doing. I have a company called iconic32.com. We create or enhance cultural movements for social good using pop culture.
Well, there you have it. Now you have to wonder if Smollett was being ambiguous on purpose because he was not yet ready to come out, if ever — and whether or not he appreciates Yoba outing him.