“Empire” star Jussie Smollett thinks coming out as gay on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was more important to other people than it was to him, and finds that to be “beautiful” result of his character’s storyline on the popular hip-hop drama.
“It was a bigger moment for other people than it was for me,” Smollett told TheWrap at an Emmy event ahead of Wednesday’s Season 1 finale airing on Fox. “But at the same time, I understand that, and I think it’s beautiful.”
Smollett plays Jamal Lyon — a gay character on the series following a family fighting for control of a record company — and considers the role, and the fame that comes with it, his “opportunity to make people feel just a little bit less alone is this world.”
“If I can be a small voice for somebody to feel like they’re a little bit more understood, that’s dope. As an artist, we don’t get that chance every single day,” Smollett said. “When it does, you jump at the chance. And I fought for this role because I felt from the moment that I read the script that the role of Jamal was special, and groundbreaking, and envelope pushing. And it was something that I wanted to be a part of.”
Since telling DeGeneres earlier this month that he’s never hid his sexuality in “a closet,” the 31-year-old actor says he’s received letters from both kids and adults — homosexual and heterosexual — that are “really finding themselves” as a result of watching his character on the show.
“They have simply felt misunderstood, or judged. Or people having these preconceived notions about who they are when they know nothing about them,” Smollett said. “That’s the fabric of bullying. So many children and people in general are bullied every single day.”