Empire is bigger than just an acting role for Jussie Smollett. The international success of the series which garnered his co-star Taraji P. Henson an Emmy is also a platform for Jussie to speak out on issues that matter to him.
In a new interview with Out Magazine, Jussie shares that two show executives didn’t want him to travel to Washington, DC to speak out on police brutality. “‘You know, maybe just wait,’” he recalls being told by the executives. He was also told that mixing politics with his professional life could hurt his career. Jussie didn’t listen. Last March, he paid for his own ticket to DC where he helped deliver a legislative package on social injustice to Congress.
“People were telling me, ‘Don’t do it.’ But I felt like, If I lose my career based on this, then I don’t need that career,” he added.
The 32-year-old actor-artist-activist is used to having people trying to stifle him, especially when it comes to the fact that he’s Black and gay in Hollywood. “The second you say something, they want that to be your storyline forever,” he says of not wanting to be placed in stereotypical roles because of his sexual orientation. “That narrative doesn’t interest me at all.”
He shared that the support from his TV mom Cookie Lyon as well as show creator, Lee Daniels helped him to feel comfortable in his skin. “[Taraji] said, ‘Who gives a f**k? I don’t tell these motherf**kers that I’m straight. Why the f**k do you have to tell them that you’re gay?’ That was so O.G., and it just made me love her even more.”
Speaking of love, Jussie says it shouldn’t be defined by one’s sexual orientation. “I believe that love is the only thing that matters, and I would hope that anybody would leave themselves open — not to gender, but to love. I would hope that people would not close themselves off from what could be if, lo and behold, you meet somebody that just sweeps you off your feet, and you just can’t do anything about it.”
He adds, “If we truly believe that we are born this way, then why do we try to stifle the way we were born? If I fall in love down the road with a woman, I’m going to love that woman.”
In a recent episode of Empire, Jussie’s character Jamal kissed Skye Summers, aka Alicia Keys. “We got a lot of shit for that, and I get it,” he said while also adding that fans may see even more sexual fluidness as the season goes on.
On the importance of characters like Jamel Lyon and more importantly have people having like Jussie as a voice for millennials, Lee Daniels said, ““I think Jussie is a prime example of how life in Hollywood is changing — and that’s what makes me so proud. He is redefining through Empire what a leading man can be.”
Click here to read the full interview.