"There's never been someone of my skin color, my size, with somebody else of the same skin color in a love scene on primetime television," she tells PEOPLE
Empire is that gift that keeps on giving. It gives us music, story lines akin to Macbeth (the early 80’s rap artist, not the oft-referenced Shakespearean play), matriarchs named after baked goods, and now, it has delivered unto us a new sex symbol.
The latest episode was quite simply owned by Gabourey Sidibe‘s character Becky and her racy rooftop love scene.
Not that it was a walk in Central Park for the 32-year-old Brooklyn native, but with MC J Poppa (portrayed by actor Mo McRoe) to prop her up, or, more fittingly, lay her down, a little bit of history – and a lot of steam – was made.
“I was obviously nervous during when we were rehearsing,” Sidibe told PEOPLE while attending the Screen Actors Guild Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration in Beverly Hills, California, on Thursday. “And [Mo] was like, ‘So what’s that about? Is it that the cameras … ?’ I was like, ‘No, no. I’m just weird about whether or not I’m touching too much or I’m bothering you.’ I’m just like, ‘I’m going to do what I want with you, and you’re going to be fine with that’. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine with that.’ ”
With that, Sidibe embraced her sexuality for the steamy scene.
“I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done,” the Academy Award-nominated actress said with a laugh. “I’m really, really proud of it. I think the scene was really fun and lovely and sexy. I felt beautiful, and I felt comfortable, and I didn’t look nervous at all, and I was kind of nervous, so I’m really glad that that didn’t come across.”
She echoed her statements in a blog for Entertainment Weekly.
“Also, yes. I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television,” she wrote after recapping the episode.
“I keep hearing that people are ‘hating’ on it. I’m not sure how anyone could hate on love but that’s okay. You may have your memes. Honestly, I’m at work too busy to check Twitter anyway. #Booked.”
It’s a bit nerve-wracking, as any actor or actress will attest, when you have a scene that is supposed to be the pinnacle of intimacy with an entire crew watching.
But that wasn’t Sidibe’s real hang-up.
“The camera goes away, the people go away, but I’m weird about space,” she told PEOPLE. “My personal space. I always feel like I’m bothering somebody or I’m annoying them, and so what I do with the nerves is, I just kind of address it. I go, ‘Here are my fears.’ ”
It wasn’t until she was walking off the set when it was pointed out to her what she, and her fellow actors, had accomplished.
“After we were shooting it, the camera guy came over, and he said, ‘I’ve never shot a scene like this. And I’ve never seen a scene like this.’ ” Sidibe said. “I was really happy to be part of something that’s never been seen on primetime television before. And you don’t notice it because you don’t have to notice it, but there’s never been someone of my skin color, my size, with somebody else of the same skin color in a love scene on primetime television.”
“It’s never happened,” she added, laughing again. “Just go through the books, it’s never happened. And I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened, but I hope there’s more to come.”