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EMPIRE'S Jussie Smollett, Lee Daniels & Ilene Chaiken Defend Jamal's Surprising Tryst!

Courtesy/FOX

Courtesy/FOX

If you caught Wednesday’s midseaon finale of Fox’s Empire, you know that it was revealed that Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Skye (Alicia Keys) hooked-up!

Yes, apparently off-camera the fictional duo hit the sheets!  This move set many viewers aflame, because of the fact that Jamal is gay, so how come he would now turn to a woman?  Series star Jussie Smollett and Empire creator Lee Daniels, both out in real life defended the story choice, as did executive producer, Ilene Chaiken.

There was even a moment in the midseason finale where Jamal’s homophobic father Lucious (Terrence Howard) is proud of the fact that it looks like Skye “changed” Jamal, which reinforces the notion still believed by some, that a gay man can turn straight for the right woman.

Jussie and Lee spoke to TV Insider on this controversial story point, where Daniels admitted: “I went into this hoping Jussie and I would not get backlash from our people. But I’m prepared for it. This is a topic that needs to be discussed, not just on Empire but also within the gay community and especially within the African-American community. I was able to get a lot off my chest with the Jamal-Skye relationship. Jussie and I both share the same feeling that, yes, even though we are gay, we’re sexual human beings. And we do occasionally want to sleep with a woman. [Laughs] Maybe once every 10 or 15 years, but it happens!”

Smollett says the connection with Skye was about intimacy more than sex relating: “These are two misunderstood people who connect when they create music together, something that happens all the time with artists.  Skye and Jamal are brought together in a way the audience may not necessarily understand—and maybe it’s not for anybody to understand except for them. This may sound crazy, but I think Jamal’s thing with Skye is one of the most honest and pure relationships he’s had in a long, long time. He’s not getting anything close to that from men right now. Skye is an artist in a box who wants to break out of that box and no one understands that better than Jamal. They’ve both been labeled and that’s something they can bond over. Right now, they only have each other.”   The talented actor/singer went on to say: “Jamal is a gay man having a bisexual experience.  No one is saying he has fallen in love with Skye. But if you’re gonna go straight for anybody, it should be for the sexy and brilliant Alicia Keys. I mean, Bruh!”

Meanwhile series EP, Ilene Chaiken told TV Line if she was worried of the pushback by having Jamal sleep with a woman, to which she answered:  “Yes and yes,  Thematically, the conversations we love having on Empire are about identity, labels, fluidity. Those are core issues for us — and really interesting, provocative stories to tell. Plus, the story of gay identity has been told on television. We felt ready to push beyond, to talk about all of the nuances of experience and not be bound by the conventional script. And with the number of gay people involved in the creating and writing of this show, we talked about all of our experiences. There’s a spectrum of gay identity, behavior and attraction. And we wanted to talk about it in a provocative way based on experiences we all had. And Lee Daniels and Jussie Smollet come at it from certain points of view — and I’m very interested in hearing what actors have to say about the characters they play. There are gay men and gay women who, at least on occasion, have found themselves at least fleetingly attracted to someone of the opposite sex. And Lee and I have discussed how as artists, especially, when you’re creating. how exciting and sexual that can be. It felt like a great story to tell for Jamal — if he really connects with an artist who happens to be a woman, and they have this momentary spark — what could stop that from happening. And why shouldn’t we tell that story?”

So, what are your thoughts on the plotpoint: Do you see it plausible that Jamal and Skye slept together? Did you like the story beat?  Did it not sit well with you?  What did you think of the explanation of the shock value to the story beat from Smollett, Daniels, and Chaiken?  Did you enjoy the midseason finale of Empire?  What was your favorite moment in it, since it contained much more then this controversial story beat? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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john uzoTnT 2.0 ForeverPaulrebecca1Mateo Recent comment authors
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Andy G.
Andy G.

“Empire” creator Lee Daniels has repeatedly referred to the series as his black version of the 80s prime time soap “Dynasty.” Perhaps this story line serves as further homage to the original, wherein token gay character Steven Carrington slept with far more women than men. However, doing so foolishly ignores all of the progress toward mainstream acceptance that LGBT Americans have made in the last 30 years. The Jamal/Skye story line feels dated, contrived, and like a bone thrown to the more homophobic elements of the hip hop audience, which is why I must call “BS” on the whole thing. As the second season of “Empire” progresses, I’m becoming more disenchanted with each ensuing episode.

MarcAnthony
MarcAnthony

Amen!!

Harvey Allen
Harvey Allen

DITTO

Mateo
Mateo

The message this “plot device” sends is that one woman can change a gay man. Even once. It is the wrong message. Of course the creator and actor in the series are going to defend the story point. If they don’t support it, they won’t be employed. I find it cowardly to say that every gay man will sleep with a woman if the “right” one presents themselves. Let’s be honest and admit that the average gay man does not want to get it on with a woman. No matter what the situation is. Don’t call it being “a sexual being”. Being sexual means you like to have sex with the person you’re attracted to. Don’t try to make it sound more honorable to screw around with a woman than a man. Mixed messages in this day and age are important to avoid. Youth watches these signals we are sending. The message sent is “it’s okay to be gay IF you occasionally do it with a woman”. I think that Empire is quickly running into a wall. The episodes get less enjoyable. I hope they can turn it around. Right now the ONLY reason I watch is for Tariji (Cookie). It is her skill and character portrayal that make the hour enjoyable.

rebecca1
rebecca1

I don’t think you REALLY watched or understood this episode, Mateo. It was about two PEOPLE connecting on more than just a physical attraction or preference.

There was no implication that he was suddenly not gay, that he no longer was attracted to men. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite, which is why he was flirting with the guy at the club. It was also apparent that Lucius WANTED this to be the miracle “cure” for his son…which only put a spotlight on how some people still don’t truly understand. It was evident that Jamal was disappointed in his father’s assumption by the backward glance he gave him. If that wasn’t enough, Jamal literally admitted to Alicia’a character he could never be as attracted to a woman as to a man.

So relax. No one’s negating Jamal’s sexuality. But being the sensitive, open, creative person he is, it was completely natural and beautiful to see him lead with his heart and creative soul in the moment. He was attracted to another human being…it wasn’t sensationalized or for shock value. Just the opposite.

See you on the GH board…

Mateo
Mateo

First of all DO NOT EVER tell me that I didn’t understand something. I understood it perfectly. I have seen this story point used on various other shows and it all means the same thing. That subtle message that says if you’re gay, it’s because you haven’t found the right woman to “turn” you. As a member of the gay community I hear many guys say they feel an attraction to different women for different reasons but it’s never on a sexual side. I won’t relax and sip the Kool-Aid like you are suggesting. It wasn’t completely natural and beautiful. It had nothing to do with his heart leading the way. There is this message subliminally sent that men only feel their hearts beat when a woman is at the heart of it. With men there is never the heart leading but another part of their anatomy. Jamal Lyons is a character I get that but as a beautiful, sensitive soul he could express that sensitivity in a way that doesn’t teach people that all gay men want a woman but haven’t found just the right one. It wasn’t shocking at all, it was expected. I have yet to see one television show yet that doesn’t try to intimate that eventually a gay man will settle with a woman and be that traditional family that includes a man and a woman. A family is not gender based. A family is a group of any people who come together in love, respect and dignity and treat each other with that said love. The message Empire sent is that a gay man isn’t really a gay, he is just experimenting until he “finds” himself. It’s not severe just yet. But look at what they have done with Jamal. They started him out with a boyfriend. They got him to settle into a home with that man and then they destroyed that relationship with adultery. Now Jamal is a “free” agent. So of course he is flirting with other men. But when he decides to get tender and sensitive and beautiful it is with some woman he just met. They can cover it any way they want to. They can say it wasn’t because Jamal isn’t gay any more. They can say they are exploring sexual fluidity. They can spin it any way they want. It’s working apparently because people drank the Kool-Aid and accept it as normal. I don’t and I never will because I know what it’s like to walk the walk that society hurls on those who are different.

rebecca1
rebecca1

Now noww…no need to shout. Lol…from your reaction I still think you misunderstood…misread…the dynamic of these two people…sharing a moment in time, and the writers intent. You’re one man…and if Jamal’s experience isn’t yours, that’s valid. But there are gay people who meet one or more people outside of their community that they’re drawn to. If happens with straight people too. Not ALL people.

Sorry you were so offended by the episode and my comment…but…my opinion stands.

rebecca1
rebecca1

And one more thing Mateo. You’ve taken a one night stand…which may turn out to be all it was…will be…to conclude that he’s found a woman to love and he’s going to wind up with her and suddenly realize he’s not gay. It was obvious he loved his boyfriend…probably still does. But we saw in earlier episodes Jamal didn’t feel like he understand his music or the business. You say gay men don’t lead with their heart but another part of their anatomy. Got news for you…straight men and women react to sexual attraction…chemistry…first thing too. But Jamal already knew of this singer, he was a fan, he was excited to be working with her, they connected, she’s gorgeous…it happened. This wasn’t pure lust…this was connection. The fact that you’re outraged he could connect with a woman no matter the situation makes you the close minded one…

And, I don’t need a lecture on what a family is comprised of. Lol..you are way too defensive and have these two characters sharing a house and a white picket fence.

Yes…there was infidelity between Jamal and his boyfriend…and Cookie and Lucius, Lucius and Anika , Andre wanted to sleep with Jennifer Hudson’s character, Hakeem has gone from woman to woman…my point is they’re not representing gay relationships poorly. They’ve got everyone playing musical beds. Jamal is incredible…true to himself but a creative who thrives inp expression, creation ans honesty. I’d say he’s a pretty great representative of the community you’re so offended for.

It’s a whirlwind of emotions…good, bad and ugly.

TnT 2.0 Forever
TnT 2.0 Forever

@Mateo

I still don’t get how acknowledging sexual fluidity is “spin”. Like it or not, some gay people find themselves attracted to someone of the opposite sex and some straight people find themselves attracted to someone of the same sex. Sexuality is a continuum. Not all straight people are 100% straight and not all gay people are 100% gay. Bisexuality is real and does exist. Biphobia is just as bad a homophobia.

Paul
Paul

Jamal is not bi. He is GAY. Don’t start some biphobia discussion in this thread. To Mateo’s point, no gay man confident in his own skin, suddenly hooks up with a woman. My season pass for Empire has been cancelled.

TnT 2.0 Forever
TnT 2.0 Forever

You don’t know for sure if he is bi or not. You can’t determine someone’s sexual identity for them or how they want to identify themselves. Besides what does it mean to be bisexual? Does it only include people who are equally attracted to both sexes? What about people who are mostly attracted to members of the opposite sex but occasionally are attracted to members of the same sex? Someone like Angelina Jolie, is she straight or bisexual? Or someone like Lee Daniels who is mostly attracted to other men but on occasionally sexually attracted to women? Is he gay or bisexual? The fact is anyone who studies human sexuality will tell you that it is much more complex than a simple gay/straight dichotomy. I’m not making this up, look up the research on human sexuality. I’m glad that for once a show is presenting sexuality in all its complexity instead of being simplistic, and in my personal experience unrealistic, about it.

Trophy Lady
Trophy Lady

I say go for it! Why the heck not?

This is always the case with women who are supposed to be straight, and then they end up hooking up with women. But that is supposed to be “sexy,” right? They’re just experimenting, right?

So, why can’t a man be gay, and then turn around and sleep with a woman? Why isn’t that just as “sexy”? Why isn’t he encouraged to “just experiment” as well?

So, when a gay man does this back and forth, it’s supposed to be appalling and insulting to the gay community. BUT when a woman does the back and forth, it’s what? Let me guess… sexy. Gimme a break.

Alan
Alan

Not surprised.

Soap writers always seem to think that every gay man (Dynasty’s Steven Carrington, OLTL’s Oliver Fish, DOOL’s Will Horton) ends up in bed with a woman at some point in his life (we don’t) yet NEVER consider having their straight male characters experiment with same sex interactions (Y&R’s Adam Newman/Rafe Torres fling being the sole exception). I suppose the former situations are to make gay men more palatable to the mainstream and the lack of the latter is so that straight male characters are seen as real men.

EMPIRE has definitely hit its sophomore slump and needs to branch out in its storytelling (not every plot has to be music related) and stop stunt casting so that stories can play out over the course of several episodes instead of being rushed to meet the availability of this week’s guest star. As for the plot point, it rings false to me as a gay man and smacks of desperation to keep people talking over the winter break.

Scott (ATWT Fan)
Scott (ATWT Fan)

I’m insulted and honestly turned-off right now by this show, and how it’s handling Jamal’s sexuality. It’s insulting and it reinforces the belief that being gay is a “choice”, which it is not.

rebecca1
rebecca1

It spooooo does not imply that. What IS a choice is to love or make love with any person that you feel connected to at a particular moment in your life. Freedom of choice doesn’t mean you choose to be straight or gay…just means we’re all free to connect with anyone of a different race, religion, age, gender…if we feel the connection even in spite of or lack of the “desired preferences.”

penny
penny

This is wicked crazy because over a month ago I posted on blog about this very thing. I wanted to understand why it was acceptable in the homosexual community for a heterosexual to dip into the homosexual life but they get all bent out of shape if a homosexual dips into the heterosexual life. People are wired differently rather your gay, bi, tri or straight. It’s ridiculous to assume what Daniels did takes away from what LGBT have achieved and still achieving in the 21st Century. IMO this has nothing to do with someone’s choice of sexuality but more to someone acting on feelings and attraction in that moment.

TnT 2.0 Forever
TnT 2.0 Forever

I agree! Bisexuality is real. People complain about homophobia but it seems that biphobia is also a major issue as well. Its sad that some people believe that denying bisexuality as a part of the human sexual experience is the only way to end discrimination against gays. No one gets ahead by being in denial.

rebecca1
rebecca1

I’m a straight, white woman, older than Jessie Smolett, and totally attracted to him. Sexuality IS fluid…and connecting to another human being can cause a spark which might not have ignited on physical attraction alone. I found Jamal and Alicia Keys character connection from the beginning and thought they were great together. The way they bonded over the lyrics to the song as they sang together, the shared, meaningful glances…incredible chemistry! Totally plausible. In that moment they weren’t defined preferences, they were two human beings feeling their connection. When he wrapped himself around her during rehearsal, drawing nearer, sweeping back her hair…lol…you could feel the heat. Ahem. Can someone open a window? Lol…loved it!

TnT 2.0 Forever
TnT 2.0 Forever

It seems that some in the gay community feel insecure about their identity as gay people. Sexuality is fluid. Bisexual people exist and are real. I don’t see this need to pretend that bisexuality does not exist in the gay and straight communities.

Nk3play2
Nk3play2

I honestly took Jamal and Skye’s “romance” as Jamal living out a childhood fantasy. The character – Jamal said he grew as a superfan of the Skye Summers character and I think at that young age, sexuality isn’t a factor. I think Jamal is attracted to the persona that he sees in Skye, and it just so happens that she’s a woman. I honestly think he is FAR from straight or bisexual, he just seems to be living out a fantasy.

And I honestly can’t speak on this subject because I’m not a gay man. However, I trust Lee Daniels to touch on the subject because I’ve actually witnessed how he interacts with female friends and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he admitted to being interested in a particular woman.

4ever DAYS
4ever DAYS

By the looks of many comments in this thread and elsewhere at this site, many gay men would love to have the “B” taken out of the LGBT or do they think the “B” stands for Bitches?

john uzo
john uzo

I am a gay guy……i like guys bt dat dosent mean am nt smtimes attracted to women…….the gay community has looked into jamal loved life and maybe dey felt hope through it and now that he kissed skye,everyone is condeming the show….no one knows whether jamal maybe gay or bisexual either way when I was wathching the episode….I saw two people connectin tru music…..jamal has had his up and down with men
None of dem bein able to understand him when it came to music bt when he was singing with skye,he forgot whether he was gay or not and maybe for the first time felt smtin he may have neva felt before but am sayin it is love just smtin…..so am nt one of those gay’s dat becos a character who act as a gay kiss a girl,I would start hatin empire……let just see how it goes,it may nt even work btw dem…so peace

Breaking News

TEEN CHOICE AWARDS: ‘This Is Us’, ‘Empire’ & Actors Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Jussie Smollett Score Nods

On Wednesday, the nominees for those ‘way cool’ surfboard trophies at the upcoming 2018 Teen Choice Awards were revealed.  The ceremony will air live on FOX on Sunday August 12th at 8/7c live from Los Angeles.

The awards voted on by fans for their favorites in television, movies and music kicked off the determination of the winners today. Fans have the chance to vote up to ten times a day on each platform: Twitter and at TeenChoice.com up until June 19.  For Twitter, viewers can tweet a category hashtag along with the nominee’s name for the vote to be counted.

In the television categories, Riverdale and the just cancelled Shadowhunters led the nominations. but a few of your favorite primetime soapy dramas also came away with nominations in the major categories … This Is Us, and Empire.  In addition, Sterling K. Brown (Randall) and Chrissy Metz (Kate) scored acting nominations for This Is Us, while Jussie Smollett (Jamal) received an acting nod for Empire.

Check out these main TV drama categories below and remember to vote.

Choice Drama TV Show (#ChoiceDramaTVShow)
Empire
Famous in Love
Riverdale
Star
The Fosters
This Is Us

Choice Drama TV Actor (#ChoiceDramaTVActor)
Cole Sprouse — Riverdale
Freddie Highmore — The Good Doctor
Jesse Williams — Grey’s Anatomy
Jussie Smollett — Empire
K.J. Apa — Riverdale
Sterling K. Brown — This Is Us

Choice Drama TV Actress (#ChoiceDramaTVActress)
Bella Thorne — Famous in Love
Camila Mendes — Riverdale
Chrissy Metz — This Is Us
Lili Reinhart — Riverdale
Maia Mitchell — The Fosters
Ryan Destiny — Star

So, which show from the nominees do you think the voters will chose for Choice Drama TV Show, Actor and Actress?  Let us know in the comment section below!

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Empire

EMPIRE Season Four Finale: A Wedding, Two Deaths … Maybe More!

On the season four finale of Empire, two deaths, maybe another, and a marriage, highlighted the twists and turns of the Fox hip-hop music soap opera.

First, Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) long time rival, Boo Boo Kitty aka Anika, played by Grace Gealey, took one of the more horrific signature tumbles that Empire is known for.  Payback is definitely a bitch!

Courtesy/FOX

Andre (Trai Byers) spiked Anika’s champagne before her press conference when she announces she has taken over as CEO of “Empire.”  While she is making her speech, she starts seeing visions of Rhonda, featuring Kaitlin Doubleday reprising her role. As she is speaking to the press, Anika is having hallucinations of Rhonda and her delusions reach epic proportions.  Then, we watch Anika smash through glass and fall several floors below to her death. According to showrunner EP Greg Mahoney, Anika is truly dead.

But also, at the top of the hour, recovering junkie Tori, played by Rumer Willis, was rushed to the hospital.  This was following an emotional confrontation with Jamal (Jussie Smollett). He visits her in the rehab center where she realizes she’s still got deep addiction issues.  After, they have a talk, she tells him to watch out for himself, and that the Lyon family will bring him down, and he needs to find his own path in life. Later, Jamal comes back to see her, only to find out that she has suffered complications from a grand mal seizure, and has died.  This prompts Jamal to go on a self-journey, and leave the Lyon’s nest for now.

Meanwhile, at the end of the episode, Cookie and Lucious (Terrence Howard), finally, finally after all the bickering … all the backstabbing … all the health issues … all the betrayals … went down to city hall to get re-married.  This was a long time coming. It was a simple ceremony, but as with any Empire season finale, there was a major juxtaposition going on adjacent to the main scene, and this was also the case for season four’s final moments.

While Cookie and Lucious were getting married, the camera cuts to Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and his baby mama Tiana (Serayah McNeill) getting ready to travel in a car along with white rapper Blake in tow, only to see that Blake’s racist father comes out of nowhere and attempts to assassinate Hakeem!  We don’t know if anyone was struck … we don’t know if anybody died … we fade to black.

On the business end of things, Eddie, played by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, won the “Empire” auction.  He has forced the Lyon family to start from scratch as they no longer have the business that they spent years putting their blood, sweat, and tears into.

Courtesy/FOX

When TV Line asked showrunner Brett Mahoney about the shooting at the end of the episode and if it will lead to a third death, he said, “I won’t say.  I will say that things won’t be the same between the four people that were involved in that.” Mahoney added that the early part of season five will focus on the Lyon family building a new empire.  He teased, “Yes.  But I think it’s going to be a much more difficult process than Cookie thinks it’s going to be.  And it’ll tear at the relationship between Cookie and Lucious and the boys, in terms of trying to achieve that goal.”

 

So, what did you think about the season four finale of Empire?  What did you think about who died?  What did you think about Cookie and Lucious tying the knot?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Empire

EMPIRE Renewed For Season 5!

The Lyon family drama lives on!  News today from Michael Thorn, entertainment president for Fox Broadcasting, confirmed that Empire has been officially renewed for its fifth season!

With only four episodes left in its fourth season, and the Upfronts in New York in just a few weeks previewing the  2018-2019 season for advertisers, this was the perfect time to reveal the pick-up for the sudsy musical drama series.

In his statement, Thorn said of the series: “Empire is as compelling, emotional and unpredictable as it ever was. We are so proud of our amazing cast, led by Terrence and Taraji, who deliver powerful performances week after week. We’d also like to thank our tremendous creative team – Lee, Danny, Brett, Ilene, Sanaa, Brian and Francie – whose inspired storytelling continues to create the unforgettable, jaw-dropping OMG moments that have always been signature to Empire.”

Although the once huge Wednesday juggernaut has slid significantly in the ratings in 14 episodes this season, the show is averaging a 1.9 rating in the 18-49 demo and 5.8 million total viewers — down 31% and 24%, respectively from last season, the series is the network’s second most watched in multi-platform viewing, averaging 11.3 million viewers.

There was no confirmation of how many episodes will be ordered for the fifth season of Empire, but it is says to be most likely 18. (more…)

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