Oh the complications of coming out publicly. One might think, after all that's been written on the subject, that it's so simple. Men and women do it every day in Hollywood, right? No big deal.
But ever since actor Jussie Smollett was cast in Empire, Lee Daniels's hip-hop primetime soap on Fox, people have wondered if he was openly gay, as his character Jamal struggles with homophobia from his family and the music scene in which he's involved. Up until now, Smollett has kept quiet to enquiries about his personal life and whether he's openly gay. But on today's episode of Ellen, the actor finally discussed his personal life. Sort of.
He performs "Good Enough" from Empire on today's episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the two discuss the episode where Jamal "comes out" by singing about loving a man in his version of "You're So Beautiful."
They discuss how the show has become such a huge hit, a "phenomenon," and Ellen then asks what has happened since his character has come out and asks Smollett: "What's happening in your life?"
Smollett responds in a sort of oblique non-answer format:
"Well what's happening in my life, it's been great. You know I get some ignorant tweets every once in a while you know, and I know you're not supposed to respond, but sometimes you got to clap back! You know what I'm saying. By all means my mother, who's in the back right now, she's absolutely an activist. And I'm a firm believer that people cannot get away with murder, although I love How to Het Away With Murder. But you cannot allow people to just spew hate and be ok. I have a tattoo that's the first line in 'Man in the Mirror' that says, 'I'm going to make a change.' And I just feel that, as tenants of this earth, it's our job to make a difference and make the world better and we can't just sit around and let people spew nasty things and just think that's OK. It's not OK."
That apparently caused some folks to feel like he skirted the question, so Ellen caught up with him in the green room before he left and asked him to discuss his personal life and whether he is gay. It's an awkward exchange in which Smollett never says, "I'm gay," but he does admit to never having been in any closet. Again he says his "mother knows" and she loves him. This is meant to be his "coming out," and the two say that it's now out in the open and people "don't need to ask anymore." But something tells us, this is going to just be the beginning of the questions.
Watch the interview below and read the full transcript of the conversation on the next page.
Read the full transcript of the conversation on the following page>>>
Ellen: I'm sitting here with Jussie because we just filmed the show and I'm about to tape another show right now. And before I walked out you knocked on the door and said I'd like to talk to you. So this is why we're here.
Jussie: Well, no. It was very, very important to me that, as my first performance and talk show that it was with you. You've been such an inspiration to so many, but also to me. What you've done with, in the LGBT community is very much in my opinion kind of like what Michael Jackson did with the black community -- just that you are who you are. And he was just Michael and you're just Ellen, so it was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet. There's never been a closet. That I've been in. I don't own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don't have a closet, but I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.
Jussie: So that's why I choose not to talk about my personal life. But there is without a doubt, no closet that I've ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear, but it was most important for me to make that clear to you on your show at this time in the world. And that's where I'm at.
Ellen: Well thanks.
Jussie: And I'm such a fan, but also so inspired.
Ellen: Thank you so much. Because I think when I brought up the fact that your character came out and we talked about it and you were expressing yourself, I think a lot of people are still questionin,g and when we finished the show they were like is he, isn't he [gay]? And listen, I think the most important thing is talent, the most important thing is what we do. And we don't want anything to get in the way of that.
Jussie: I agree. Absolutely.
Ellen: But there are questions out there, so I think that's why it was my responsibility to at least give you the opportunity. And I am so proud of you that you say there is no closet, there never has been a closet. You've never been pretending to be anything that you aren't.
Jussie: Ever, ever. So let's not read into it the wrong thing when I say that I don't talk about my personal life, I'm saying that. But it is in no way to hide, or deny who God made me. You know?
Jussie: My mama knows. And my ,ama likes me a lot. And yes, I take her to the Sound of Music sing-along every, single year. So, any questions? But you know, honestly, we're humans and we love and we do all that good stuff. So I'm honored for this opportunity, and I am honored to be here with you.
Ellen: Good. I'm proud of you. And I think, first of all, I think the show is a huge platform for a lot of people, and I think there are so many stereotypes and judgments, and the fact that you're shattering that by the role you're playing and the strength you have to come out and talk about it and represent. I'm proud of you.
Jussie: Thank you so much.
Ellen: All right. Well, good, I'm glad we got a chance to talk. Now I go do another show.
Jussie: Boom! Now you don't even gotta ask no more.
Ellen: You don't have to ask anymore.
Jussie: I told Ellen. Who else do I need to tell?
Ellen: That's it.