Jussie Smollett didn’t have a lot of time to think about how open he would be about his sexuality when Empire hit so fast and so big last year.
By the time his character of Jamal came out to the world in dramatic fashion at the end of Empire’s first season, the actor had done so himself earlier in the year during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
‘I was like two months deep into this fame thing,’ he tells OUT Magazine in an interview posted Thursday (28 January). ‘The second you say something, they want that to be your storyline forever. That narrative doesn’t interest me at all. I was ready to talk about it. (Ellen) told me, “You don’t have to.” I will be forever grateful to Ellen for the kindness she showed me. And that made me want to talk about it.’
He had done his initial interview so cameras were set up in the show’s green room where guests go before they go onto the stage.
DeGeneres, who came out publicly in 1997 on the cover of Time magazine, asked Smollett the question and he replied never once saying the word ‘gay’ instead saying: ‘There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in. It was a much bigger deal for other people that it was for me.’
He now more comfortable being far more direct: ‘I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I am a gay man. I don’t know how many times I have to say that.’