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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!”

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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?”

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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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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

Empire

‘Empire’ Series Finale Brings Lyon Family Together; While Many Viewers Dissatisfied Over Makeshift Ending

Following Tuesday’s night series finale of Empire, which featured once again, brilliant performances from Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence DaShon Howard (Luscious), many longtime viewers took to social media unsatisfied with its conclusion.  However, it should be noted that the shows producers did their best to use the footage they had in the can to craft something they hoped would be meaningful.

As previously reported, due to COVID-19, Empire had shot 18 episodes and a half of episode 19, of their 20 season order, when they were forced to shut down production.  Thus, the set-up and focus of the finale had to be significantly changed.

If you have not seen last night’s finale and plan to watch, do  not read any further for spoilers.

In an episode entitled “Home is On The Way,” which now makes complete sense post-viewing, Cookie and Luscious throughout trials, tribulations, realizations, deaths, and wrestling back control of the company, find their way back to each other.  Throughout the episode, viewers are treated to flashbacks of the duo’s long and twisted history – the good, the bad, the ugly, the dirty, and the nasty.

Photo: FOX

To get them back together, the series had to figure out what to do to with Yana, the musical protege with whom Luscious was involved with.  Backstage at a major concert event, Yana realizes that Luscious is not going to come on the world tour with her, because he still deeply loves Cookie.  He does not deny it.  When Yana’s father, Damon sees her backstage in what looks like she is hugging and all into Luscious, he pulls out a gun.  When we come back from commercial, we learn Yana was shot and killed, sending Damon on a spiral to get Luscious once and for all.

Following the shooting, Lucious tries to cancel the premiere of Hakeem’s Lyon legacy movie over concerns for the safety of his entire family,  but the Andre of old steps up and says they won’t let fear force the family to do that.

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Earlier in the episode, Luscious had previously requested that in the event something should happen to him to please get a special letter he wrote to Cookie, where he opens up about his feelings for her.  When Cookie gets the letter, it is juxtaposed with the Luscious vs. Damon showdown; which Luscious ultimately wins when he clubs Damon over the head with his own prosthetic leg.

Photo: FOX

With the threat to their ultimate happiness eliminated, the series ends with the entire family attending the premiere party of the film Birth of an Empire, where Hakeem performs a rap, “The Oath,” as an ode to the Lyon legacy. The  lyrics of the song detail Cookie and Luscious’ family story and flashbacks from all six seasons are used throughout the rap.  Then came how to deal with the missing Jussie Smollett and the character of Jamal Lyon in said flashbacks.

While Luscious, Cookie, Andre and Hakeem’s flashbacks showed the actual actors who play their respective roles, Jamal’s flashbacks only showed a young child portraying the middle son of the clan – eliminating any appearance of Smollett from the finale; even via previously shot footage from the five seasons in which Smollett appeared.

Empire showrunner, Brett Mahoney spoke to TV Line as to the decision on ending of the finale: “I realized that the movie premiere, with the family coming together, with Cookie and Lucious recognizing their love for one another, we definitely have the spirit of what I had intended for our true series finale, It’s almost the idea that the family is more important than the empire. That the love that they have for each other is more important than anything else … that’s definitely where we’re headed in terms of the actual series finale.”

As to the premise from the beginning of season 6 that fans were hoping would be answered in the series finale – who blew up Cookie’s car and who shot Luscious – Mahoney shared: “I was not able to answer that in a satisfying way with what we had shot, so that’s why I’m hoping that we can really still shoot our intended series finale and answer those questions.”

The biggest cliffhanger to come out of the series finale from Tuesday night is; will Mahoney and company be able to re-group and shoot the series finale they intended; following any lessening of the COVID-10 safety measures in the coming months? Stay tuned.

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Empire

TONIGHT: ‘Empire’ Series Finale: How It Will Conclude? Even Taraji P. Henson Says She Doesn’t Know

The coronavirus pandemic not only has wreaked havoc on the physical, emotional, and financial well-beings of everyone in our country and around the world, but for TV viewers it really messed with production plans for many of your favorite shows.   For the primetime soap Empire, that could not have been more true.

Faced with having filmed 18 episodes and a part of its 19th (with an originally planned 20 season order), its series finale and story had to be restructured.  So tonight on Tuesday April 21st, the hip hop music drama will say goodbye on FOX.

Empire has had a very twisted road in its six seasons.  For its first few years on the air, it was a juggernaut bringing in huge ratings.  Then in 2019 things took a turn with a behind the scenes shift when one of its leads, Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon), made headlines for his claimed hate-crime attack on the streets of Chicago in the wee hours of the morning.  This led to plenty of revelations in Smollett’s case with the law, and his not returning to the series for the end of its fifth and in its sixth and final season.

Photo: FOX

Showrunner Brett Mahoney told TV Line that if things line up right following the pandemic, he could see trying to give the show a proper send-off: “I can’t guarantee it will happen, but we’re hopeful. And if we don’t actually get a chance to shoot the series finale, I think we’ll find some creative way to get (the information) out there, whether it’s by just releasing the script or finding another way to satisfy fans “= We don’t know what the costs will be in terms of keeping our sets. And then the question becomes who from the cast will be available at that point.”

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On Monday’s episode of the CBS daytime series, The Talk, the ladies welcomed Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon) to get a preview of what to expect tonight.  She surprised the hosts by saying she doesn’t really know.

Henson expressed: “We were in the middle of the 19th episode when everything got shut down. So, I used to know how the show was going to end, but I don’t know. They are going to make some kind of movie magic in that editing room. They are going to take all the footage they have already, and just come up with some kind of finale… I will be finding out what’s happening at the same time you guys are finding out, which is kind of fun.”

She added, “I’m a little hurt because I didn’t get to say goodbye to my cast and my crew. I bought them amazing letterman sweaters, that’s my gift to them because it was our senior year.  I hope ‘Empire’s’ legacy will be that African American stories do translate, and they cross over, and they’re international.”

Watch Taraji on The Talk below. Then weigh-in: how do you think the story will conclude for Luscious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie, and the Lyon family in the makeshift ending of Empire? Let us know in the comment section.

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Breaking News

EMPIRE’s Final Season Cut Short Due To COVID-19; Series Finale Now Set For April 21

Will we now ever know just how the lives of Empire’s Lucious  (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) and their dysfunctional family will resolve now that the series has had to scrap two of their planned episodes in their final season?  The sixth and final season was scheduled to run for a total of 20 episodes.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the production shutdown left them with only 18 episodes tht could be completed.

That means, as first announced during last night’s episode of Empire via voice-over: “Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of ‘Empire,’”  that reveal let viewers of Empire know there was change in plans.”  Now, the shortened season and series finale end on FOX on April 21st.

Reports also note that episode 19 was partially shot and that footage of that unfinished episode will be cut into the finale.

As to what happens with the character of Jamal Lyon played by Jussie Smollett, who everyone knows ran into significant trouble with the law; on last reports executives said he would not be back for the final episodes of the series, although there has still have been mentions of the character throughout season 6.

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Come April 21st, there still may be more Empire in our future, if  FOX executives decide to greenlight a potential spinoff headlined Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon; that first came to light earlier this year in January as being in heavy discussions.

So, what do you think of how Empire will wrap-up after 6 seasons? Do you feel short-changed, or glad they are trying to work in everything they shot to deliver some kind of series finale for fans of the primetime soap? Comment below.

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