Empire‘s Rafael de la Fuente loves being on a hit TV show, but he’s even more grateful because of the type of character he’s playing.
As Michael, the boyfriend of middle son Jamal (Jussie Smollett), de la Fuente is playing one of the few gay minority characters currently on television.
“I’m very proud of that,” the actor, 29, says in a video exclusive to PEOPLE from the third annual Platino Awards, which were held in Uruguay in July and celebrates the Ibero-American film industry. “It’s been amazing because we’ve gotten so many tweets and messages on Instagram and emails from fans that are so grateful that we are giving face to these characters and just putting it out there. It’s necessary and important.”
As for what is in store for season 3 of his soapy Fox drama, de la Fuente isn’t allowed to spill any spoilers – but he does promise a good time.
“We have just started shooting season 3, and it’s obviously going to be a lot of drama, cliffhangers, music,” says the native Venezuelan. “It’s Empire, so it’s going to be good.”
De la Fuente adds that returning to set after their summer hiatus has been like coming home.
“My coworkers – my friends I’ve made on the show – they’re amazing,” he says. “It’s such a good set. Everyone is just extremely talented but also really humble, and I just love everyone. It’s been a very nurturing show to be a part of.”
Season 3 of Empire is slated to premiere Sept. 21 on Fox.