Lee Daniels has revealed that a test audience for Empire tested positive for homophobia.
The gay cocreator of the Fox hit, which features a prominent gay character and storyline, recounted how about 100 viewers during a preliminary screening gave low ratings to scenes that featured a kiss between two men.
Daniels told Canada's Daily Xtra that audience members were tasked with rating how much they enjoyed an Empire episode in real time by turning a dial throughout a screening, ranked “Zero they hate it, 10 they love it.”
The Precious director watched from behind a one-way mirror as ratings, which were high during the majority of an episode, plunged during these moments of same-sex affection.
“They’re at a 10 until the two men kiss. Then it’s down to a zero,” he said.
When asked by the questioner, “Why is it a zero when two men kiss?” Daniels said the audience, “a hundred people in the room, most of them, 90 percent of them, 95 percent of them were heterosexual — didn’t want to admit to their homophobia, so they just sort of look at the floor.”
Daniels, who stood by his assertion that gay people are “third-class citizens,” said that “there’s a stigma to being gay that … the world can’t shake. There’s something about two men being together.”
He called the LGBT movement “the civil rights of our time right now, and I think we have to not back down.”
Watch the full interview below.