The Wrap interviews Jussie Smollett

The Wrap has an interview with Empire star Jussie Smollett.


Jussie talks about what has and has not changed in his life, the toughest scene he’s filmed on Empire, how much his character of Jamal has meant to young people and future projects.

Emmy Breakout Star Jussie Smollett Talks ‘Empire’ Episode When ‘Jamal Got His Balls,’ Cut Cookie Scene

“One of my favorite scenes that I ever shot with Taraji was cut from the pilot,” actor tells TheWrap. “It was this whole scene inside of an SUV and we were joking and it was just such a great scene and it was an emotional scene as well.”

When asked how his life has changed since “Empire” became a sensation, Jussie Smollett laughs. “It’s probably easier to say what has not changed,” he says.

“The great side of this is that I have a platform to show people what I can do, what I love to do and what I have been doing for so long.” Smollett was a child actor who appeared in The Mighty Ducks and North, as well as a recording artist who released the 2012 EP The Poisoned Hearts Club and subsequently signed a recording contract with Columbia.

But nothing he’d done previously had the reach of Empire, on which he plays the gay son of Terrence Howard‘s homophobic music-business mogul. The actor, who came out as gay on “The Ellen DeGeneres” show in March, says he’s heard countless stories about how much his character has meant to young people who might otherwise feel alone.

“I don’t believe you need a big hit TV show or a hit record to make an impact, but I’m glad that I can affect lives in the way my life was affected by people I looked up to,” he says. “It’s so amazing to be able to maybe change minds by simply doing what you love. If that’s not fulfilling, I don’t know what is.”

JOSEPH KAPSCH: What has changed about your life now that “Empire” has struck and become this big monster of a hit?

JUSSIE SMOLLETT: Everything. [laughs] What has not changed about my life? It’s probably easier to say what has not changed. My family and friends have not changed at all. But what has changed, the great side of it is that I have a platform to show people what I can do, what I love to do and what I’ve been doing for so long. And a couple people are listening now. So that’s a good thing for any artist. Any person period. The other side of it is the scrutiny that comes along with it. And people all up in your business, but again that goes with the territory –I guess. The great, not even the good, so outweighs the bad because it’s been such a phenomenal way to not only show my art and my creative side but also show, bigger than that, the side of me that really cares and people listening to what I’m saying about social issues as well. That to me is more important than anything. And I’ve said this a million times before. I don’t believe you need a hit TV show or a hit record to make an impact, but I’m glad that what I was saying years ago is now, you know, can now somehow affect people’s lives in the way that my life has been affected by people I looked up to.

What was the toughest scene you had this season on “Empire”?

That’s a good one because there were a lot. Probably the toughest scene were actually two scenes. The scene with the brothers in the elevator. That was great. It was so emotional. We were all so emotional that day because we all love each other like brothers. It was all just so real. Those tears, those cries, those screams, they were all real. We stayed very disconnected for the main part of the day and when we came together for that scene, that’s exactly what happened. We came together. The other one was probably the scene where Jamal lets it all go and tells his father “I don’t want your money. I’m leaving the loft.” That was hard because I just love Terrence so much. And I respect him so much and I trust him so much. There’s never a time when I do a scene with Terrence and I don’t end up afterwards feeling very empty emotionally because they’re usually very, very intense scenes. Even when we’re walking by and we’re just saying hello to each other, it’s always so intense because the vibe is exactly the opposite of the relationship that I have in real life with Terrence. I think that that works on both ends of the spectrum, where it’s a thing of it’s difficult to do those scenes because I love and I trust him so much, but it’s also easier because I love and I trust him so much.

Did you ever work with Terrence or know Terrence before you got the show together?

No. The only thing that we’ve ever done before “Empire” is we used to be managed by same person so I would see him in passing all the time. And then one time when I was like 9 years old, there was this film and they were just doing a table read for it, it hadn’t been sold or anything like that, and I came in and read the role of Terrence as a child.

Did he remember that when you booked the show?

He did. You know what’s so funny? Terrence is so funny because Terrence comes from Planet Terrence– he doesn’t forget anything.

You can read the entire interview at The Wrap.

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