Jussie Smollet is making waves. And not just as a result of his critically lauded role as Jamal Lyon on Fox's Empire.
The actor and self-proclaimed activist graces the cover of Out magazine's March issue and his perspective is arguably just as on-point as his acting chops. Jussie sat down with the magazine to discuss his role on the hit show, his identity as a gay man in Hollywood, and what he calls a "conversation that deserves to be had."
So, what did the actor have to say for himself? A lot. Jussie revealed in an impressively forthright interview why he felt it was time to come out publicly when he did and how he regards his Empire fame as a catalyst for stimulating a dialogue that is often set to the back burner.
"I was told by two executives, 'You know, maybe just wait. Just wait,'" the actor told the mag. "My response was, 'But they're listening now.' And if millions of people are listening, you should say something worth hearing. People were telling me, 'Don't do it.' But I felt like, if I lose my career based on this, then I don't need that career. I know damn well that this is the career for me, but I don't know how to turn a blind eye."
It's safe to say they're listening because the actor has remained continuously outspoken about his sexuality and has made some pretty bold claims regarding popular perceptions of love, sexual orientation and the industry's desire to label.
"If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man," Jussie explained. "With that said, I believe that love is the only thing that matters, and I would hope that anybody would leave themselves open—not to gender, but to love. I would hope that people would not close themselves off from what could be if, lo and behold, you meet somebody that just sweeps you off your feet, and you just can't do anything about it. If we truly believe that we are born this way, then why do we try to stifle the way we were born? If I fall in love down the road with a woman, I'm going to love that woman."
So there you have it. Jussie loves love. And one thing's for certain, he knows how to profess it with an eloquence and candor that would, just maybe, give Empire's ingenious script-writing a run for it's money.
"I was ready to talk about it," Jussie says of his decision to come out. Though he'd be remiss to neglect mentioning just a few Hollywood friends that provided him with the support to do it in a way he saw fit.
Among them? Co-star Taraji P. Henson, who provided him with some pretty straightforward counsel on the issue because, after all, "Who gives a f--k?" And Ellen Degeneres, who told Jussie he didn't have to discuss his sexuality on her show. "I will be forever grateful to Ellen for the kindness she showed me," he said. "And that made me want to talk about it."
And talk about it he did.
"I don't take this career for granted, and I have been given a very special platform through Empire to speak on a weekly basis about love and truth and acceptance."