See ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett’s Interview, Exclusive Photos From TheWrap Fall TV Issue Cover Shoot (Video)

“He’s really changing. He’s dealing with the pressures of fame and success, and he’s definitely not what he was in the first season,” actor tells TheWrap of his character Jamal Lyon in Season 2

Last Updated: September 17, 2015 @ 12:21 PM

A previous version of this story first appeared in TheWrap Magazine Fall TV issue.

“TCA Program of the Year–awesome!” said Jussie Smollett, about Empire’s recent award from the Television Critics Association–an honor that helped take the sting out of the hit show’s low Emmy nomination count (one, for star Taraji P. Henson). Smollett, a ’90s child star (The Mighty Ducks, North), has hit a whole new fame level as Jamal, the musically talented scion of the feuding Lyon clan on Fox’s hip-hop soap opera. “When I went to Whole Foods, there was a church bus, and like 13 [people] started going, ‘JAMAL, JAMAL!!’ And that’s when I knew it was a little bit different than anything else I’ve been involved in.”

Smollett, 32, plays one of the most high-profile gay characters on TV, and this spring he confirmed to Ellen DeGeneres that he is both a real musician (with two tracks on Empire’s soundtrack and a recording contract) and a gay guy in real life. But he’s terrified to reveal any of Jamal’s secrets in the second season, though we know that Jamal has taken over the record company for his imprisoned dad (Terrence Howard), while his mother, Cookie (Henson), also battles for control. “Some of the teams have shifted, and we’ll see what happens,” said Smollett. “[Jamal] has grown a great deal.”

But emotionally, what’s up with Jamal? “I really like my job, so I’m not sharing any spoilers.” Not even a hint? “He’s really changing. He’s dealing with the pressures of fame and success, and he’s definitely not what he was in the first season.”

Smollett did say that despite “all the glitz and glamour of showbiz and celebrity, [Empire] very much deals with the issues of the nation and the world that we live in today. It’s a great chance to do something really cool.”

See more photos of Jussie Smollett here and the complete coverage of Fall TV Issue here:

Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett

FALL-TV-ISSUE-COVER-1

FALL-TV-ISSUE-COVER-2

THEWRAP-FALL-TV-ISSUE-618-COVER