Jussie Smollett on Coming Out: I'm Happy 'If I Can Help Someone Else Feel Less Alone'

The Empire star reflects on his character's many parallels with his own life

Photo: Greg Lotus/Essence

Rest assured, Jussie Smollett is not interested in jeopardizing his chances of appearing in the second season of Empire. As a result, he won’t spill on the show’s forthcoming sophomore season, only teasing that it “will make season 1 look like The Brady Bunch.”

In a new interview with Essence magazine, Smollett, 32, opened up about how Empire has changed his life – including making him a potential inspiration for young people considering coming out of the closet. “If I can help someone else feel less alone, no matter what they’re going through, I’m happy to have that opportunity,” he said.

When Smollett spoke openly about his sexuality with Ellen DeGeneres in March, however, it wasn’t a game changer for him, as he’d never considered himself in the closet.

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“The sun rose the next day, the clouds were out and I was still able to go to Whole Foods,” he said. “And my mother said, ‘Hey, baby,’ like she always does. Nothing changed.”

The older brother to Friday Night Lights and Parenthood actress Jurnee Smollett, he credits his sister Jazz with helping him land the role by giving him a heads-up that the character of Jamal Lyons was being cast.

“I jumped on Instagram and direct-messaged Lee Daniels and said, ‘Sir, I know you get this all the time, but I’m a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and musician. I am Jamal Lyon in more ways than one,’ ” Smollett told the magazine.

“We connect on so many levels,” Smollett said of the many creative, professional and familial parallels he sees between himself and his Empire character. “I know we would absolutely be best friends.”

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