“It’s a difficult thing and I’m glad we’re brining a light to this in a way that’s going to make people uncomfortable,” Henson told TheWrap during a press junket for the Fox show.
Created by Lee Daniels (“Precious”) and his writing partner, Danny Strong (“The Butler”), “Empire” follows Lucious Lyon (Howard), a gangster-turned rapper who is now the CEO of a successful music empire. After being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease aka ALS, Lucious decides to leave his company to one of his three sons: his business-smart eldest, his rap star youngest son, and his middle child, Jamal, a talented singer-songwriter who has been pushed aside by the family because he’s gay.
“Hopefully it will save a lot of young lives,” said Henson. “That’s the only way you’re going to get people to think about it, is if you show people the harshness of the reality.”
LGBT characters on primetime TV are nothing new, but when it comes to the hip-hop world, it’s still an anomaly.
“Political correctness is a blind [spot] that allows people to be bigots behind doors,” said Howard. “There’s a minority or a majority out there who aren’t OK if their son comes and says they’re gay… And if they speak their mind, they’re considered bigots, which is not necessarily that.”
Daniels said his choice to tackle homophobia in the rap world was based on his own life’s experience.
“Everything you see in the first episode is my world,” Daniels said. “Homophobia is so rampant, not only in the American community, but specifically the Latino and the African-American communities.”
And watch Daniels’s interview here.