There were few moments that were more powerful on TV last season than when fans watched the character of Jamal Lyon come out to the world through song on FOX’s gargantuan hit “Empire.” And like life imitating art and vice versa, actor Jussie Smollett had come out in a high-profile way when he appeared on “Ellen” and shared that he’s gay. Now, in an interview with Bleu magazine, Smollett explains how important that “Empire” scene and Jamal are to him.
As fans of the show will remember, Jamal came out while he was performing the song “You’re So Beautiful”; he changes the lyrics in the song to “… this the kind of song that makes a man love a man.”
For Smollett, repeatedly filming the scene was like coming out for himself all over again.
“Every time I did that scene it was like coming out again and again and again. Right before shooting that scene I felt very nervous, as if somehow things would never be the same–and they weren’t, yet they were. It’s the same feeling that I had when I did ‘Ellen.’ It was a little bit scary, but it was freeing. The fan response that I’ve gotten from that scene has been next level to me,” Smollett explained.
Finding that kind of impact and power in a character’s storyline can only come from being immersed in and transformed by a character’s life. And for Smollett, that’s an easy enough feat because Jamal has a life that’s in sync with his own.
“My life kind of prepared me for Jamal, because I am the middle son in real life. I am a singer. I have experienced the same issues that Jamal has dealt with in his life except my Momma wasn’t in jail for 17 years and my Daddy wasn’t a billionaire. [Laughs] That’s the great thing about playing Jamal,” Smollett explained.
But that’s not all he had to say about the character. Read the rest of his conversation about Jamal after the cut.