Taraji P. Henson praised her show, ‘Empire’ for the way that they addressed Jamal being gay, and gay marriage itself.
There’s a lot for Taraji P. Henson to be proud of after five seasons (and counting) playing Cookie Lyon on FOX’s Empire, but one storyline stands out as her favorite. Taraji, 48, said in a new interview that above all else, she loves how the show tackled gay marriage and accepted a gay character, Jamal Lyon. “I think for me, one of our proudest moments was the gay marriage. We didn’t know how the black community would accept Jamal,” she told Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo during their “Actors on Actors” session with our sister site, Variety. That storyline of the gay son, because it’s so taboo in our community.
“And to have him so well-received — and you know there’s the negative homophobes on Twitter, but those are small voices compared to the resounding voices of love that the character gets,” she continued. “So that was my proudest moment and how we tackled AIDS and we didn’t shy away from things. And even though it’s happening in the gay community, that’s an issue, that’s something that everybody deals with — it’s not just a gay disease. I’m proud to be part of a show that’s not afraid to ruffle the feathers and get people talking. Cause that’s the only way you’re gonna get change, you have to be uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable.”
Unfortunately, Jamal will not be part of Empire anymore. The show’s creator, Lee Daniels, has confirmed that Jussie Smollett, the controversial actor who portrays Jamal, will not be returning to the series for season six. Jussie, who played Lucious’ musician son since Empire’s 2015 beginning, was cut from the final episodes of the fifth season following his dramatic legal drama in Chicago earlier this year. Jussie claimed that two men wearing MAGA hats hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, and threw bleach on him.
He was accused of making it up, and charged with 16 counts, including filing a false police report. The charges have since been dropped. At the time, Taraji said that she was happy that the “truth prevailed.”