Interview with Jussie Smollett of "Empire" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Jussie Smollett 

Interview with Jussie Smollett of "Empire" on FOX 9/28/16

I really wanted to make this call, but unfortunately, they changed the time and dae, and I wasn't able to make it. Too bad because it's such a good show, and he does an amazing job in this role.

Final Transcript
FBC Publicity: Conference Call with Jussie Smollett
September 28, 2016/9:25 a.m. PDT

SPEAKERS
Alex Gillespie
Jussie Smollett

PRESENTATION

Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the conference call with Jussie Smollett. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session, and instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Alex Gillespie. Please go ahead.

Alex Thank you, Roxanne. Good morning and welcome to the Empire Conference Call with Jussie Smollet. Just a reminder that Empire airs on Wednesdays, which is tonight, at 9:00 p.m. on FOX. We also have tonightís episode posted on the Fox Screening Room, and on FoxFlash, we have photos and clips that are available.

Without further ado, Iíd like to turn the call over to Jussie.

Jussie So how are you? Super weird. Nice to talk to you all. Letís go.

Alex Great. Roxanne, weíre ready for questions.

Moderator Certainly. [Operator instructions].

Alex And our first question comes from the line of Jerry Nunn with Windy City Times. Please go ahead.

Jerry Hey, Jussie. Iím calling from Chicago.

Jussie All right.

Jerry We love having you film here. Itís been great.

Jussie Yes, itís starting to get cold in Chicago. Iím starting to cry a lot.

Jerry I just want to talk to about, like, the LGBT aspect to the show. Whatís fansí reactions been like over the few seasons and how do you think itís changed the dynamic of the culture?

Jussie I think that itís shown just a man trying to make it work and that this is just who he is. What Iíve seen is that itís made a lot of people, both members of the LGBTQ community as well as allies of the LBGTQ community, itís really opened up a conversation, and itís also opened up, I think, some sort of understanding of that everyone knows someone whether you know it or not.

Jerry Yes.

Jussie And again, this show, we donít preach. We never have, and I donít think we ever will. But I think what weíve done is weíve been able to just hold up a mirror to society and the world while also entertaining them, but just hold up a mirror and be like, ďIs this you?Ē Everybodyís okay with gay people until theyíre in their family. Everybody is okay with integration until your daughter brings home a black man. You know what Iím saying?

Jerry Yes.

Jussie I think what itís opened up is this very, very strong conversation about who am I and who I am, what is it to you.

Jerry Yes. Thank you so much.

Jussie Thank you.

Moderator And our next question comes from the line of Russell Weakland with Hollywood Life. Please go ahead.

Russell Hey, man. How are you?

Jussie Hey, how are you?

Russell Great.

Jussie Wait, where are you from?

Russell Sorry?

Jussie Where are you from?

Russell Hollywoodlife.com.

Jussie Okay. Hollywood. All right. Cool.

Russell Working with Mariah, how has that been and do you plan on recording any music outside of Empire with her?

Jussie Working with Mariah, itís perfect. It is. Itís perfect, and I keep saying this. I was talking to her the other day just to thank her. She didnít have to show the incredible amount of support that she has to me personally. But she has, and Iím very honored to work with her. Itís just everything.

I grew up in the í90s and the 2000s when our main go-to vocalists were Whitney and Mariah. To be able to sing with one of these greats is just an honor. Itís an honor. Itís been wonderful. As far as recording music outside of the show, I would love to. I think that we just have to talk to Mariah and try to figure it out.

Russell Fair enough. What kind of love interests would you like Jamal to have this season, if any at all?

Jussie I guess youíll just have to watch and see. I will say this, Iím very happy where Jamal is going. This is the toughest season that Iíve done so far because this season has made me have to do real research, not just digging inside of myself but real research of PTSD and panic attacks and things like that. Itís really made me have to do extra, extra work, and I love it. So this season, I will say without giving too much away, I love exactly where Jamal is.

Russell Very cool. Thank you, man.

Jussie Thank you.

Moderator [Operator instructions]. Our next question is from Ariana Romero with Wet Paint. Please go ahead.

Ariana Hi, Jussie. Great to talk to you.

Jussie Hey, Ariana. How are you?

Ariana Okay. Well, we were just talking about Mariah, and I know youíre about to do three performances with her. So how are you preparing for that?

Jussie Praying to the Lord a lot. This is the biggest thing that I have ever done, so it has to be on point. So weíre just working hard. Iím working with my creative team and Fred Gossett [ph], and weíre going to just put on the very best show that I can. So Iím excited. Iím just preparing. Iíve already started. I flew here to LA to start preparing already.

So itís exciting. Itís unbelievable because youíre already going to have the Mariah fans there who have to keep their attention because theyíre waiting on Mariah. You know what Iím saying? So we have to keep their attention. We have to give a good show. So thatís what Iím just aiming for. Itíll be great, though. Itíll be fun.

Ariana And then my other question is we didnít get to spend a ton of time with Jamal in the premiere last week. So what should fans expect to see from him tonight since it seems like heís going to be anchoring the episode a little bit?

Jussie You know what it is, that when we think of this good versus evil, I always say that no one is all bad and no one is all good. Lucious is not all bad, and Jamal is not all good. But what we see is this battle between the good and the bad, and he finally admits this episode that he really does have a problem, but what comes with that problem is rooted in the family.

So this episode, we get to see that heís really tapping into his own awareness and sensitivity and awareness of what really is going on in the world because thereís a certain level ofóI donít know how to put itóthereís a certain level of guard that heís had his entire life. I think that this season is really about the Lyon brothers opening up their eyes to the reality of what is out there, that itís not just everything that is around us immediately. Itís something much bigger than us, and I think that youíll see in this episodeóagain, Iím trying not to give too much awayóbut youíll see in this episode that it really is the opening of his eyes, so to speak.

Ariana Okay. Awesome. Thank you.

Jussie Thank you.

Ariana Iíll keep watching. Itís great.

Jussie Thank you so much.

Ariana Youíre welcome.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Malcolm Venable with tvguide.com Please go ahead.

Malcolm Hi, Jussie. Thanks for taking the time.

Jussie Hey, how are you, Malcolm?

Malcolm Good, man, good. I have two questions on two different topics. One, well, first of all, did you think Jamal and Lucious will ever get to a point where Lucious is accepting and evenóI donít want to say enthusiasticóbut accepting of Jamalís sexuality and embracing him fully?

Jussie Hereís the thingóand Iím so glad that you asked this because it leads me to a slightly bigger pointóis that I donít think, at this point, really itís not necessarily about Jamalís sexuality. Itís not to say that Lucious is the supportive father and is going to be on the marches and the front lines of parents of LGBTQ people, but I also think that they just have a problem with each other because more than anybody, theyíre most alike. You know what Iím saying? That is the issue.

So this season, itís not necessarily about the sexuality. Itís so much bigger than that. That leads me to the whole thing of will Lucious ever accept his sonís sexuality. The thing isóthis is the point that I keep on trying to drive homeówe donít all have to see the world in the same way. You know what Iím saying? Lucious has every right to think and to believe that Jamal being homosexual is wrong. He has every right to believe that. It only becomes wrong when he sh*ts upon Jamal and Jamalís basic freedoms. Thatís all.

So Jamalís obviously a bigger picture for the world as a whole. We donít all have to agree, and it doesnít make us bad people if we do agree. It only makes us bad if your disagreement and your beliefs then trace over my simple basic freedoms. Thatís all. I think that goes for Lucious and Jamal as well.

Malcolm Sure. Great. Thank you. Then the second question is particularly in tonightís episodeóI want to ask you if I got this completely wrongóbut I feel like particularly in tonightís episode, there was this under theme of black-on-black violence which is a taboo topic within the microcosm of the Black Lives Matter conversation. It just struck me as interesting that Jamalís point of view is talking about ending violence, and you have Dubois, Taye Diggsí character, essentially come on as this voice of ďYou guys need to get it together.Ē

So I was just curious how you felt about what weíll see tonight as potentially a conversation about violence within the black community and how Jamalís affected by that, and yes, if this episode is about black violence specifically.

Jussie Right. I think that what weíre able to do again in an entertaining way is really show a conversation and two very, very valid views in that conversation but two views that if joined together could actually be much more powerful. So if you watch the episode, Angelo has some good things to say, and Jamal has some good things to say, but there has to be a common ground found between what theyíre both saying. But I think that itís a much bigger conversation.

My problem comes in is when someone talks about police violence or racial profiling, and then the conversation someone throws up, ďOh, well, what about black-on-black crime?Ē These are both extremely valid points, but these points, one does not outweigh the other. You know what Iím saying? So thatís the conversation that starts tonight. Trying so hard not to give too much away, so hard.

Malcolm All right, man. Thank you.

Jussie Thanks, man.

Malcolm Cheers.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Kristyn Clarke with Pop Culture Madness. Please go ahead.

Kristyn Hi. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Jussie Of course.

Kristyn So over the course of the past two seasons into this season, your character has gone through so, so very much, and as you continue to go through these trials and tribulations of the character, is anything that you find that you continue to be surprised to learn about yourself as a person?

Jussie Sure. But I think thatís a part of art. Yes, I learn something new about myself every day playing Jamal, but I learned something new about myself every day when I was a broke artist before I even knew of anything called Empire. So you have to understand, also, that Iím older than Jamal is, not by much but by enough, like five years. Thatís enough. So Iíve been through a lot of things that Jamal has been through already. The only thing is that now I feel sometimes like Iím going through them again because now more people are watching me go through them. Does that make any sense?

Kristyn Yes, absolutely.

Jussie So itís a different experience, but sure, I learn something new. I think that if Iíve learned anything, Iíve learned from playing Jamal to be as honest and fearless as I possibly can, and thatís not always going to work in your favor in the short run, but in the long run, it will.

Kristyn Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Jussie Thank you.

Moderator [Operator instructions]. Our next question is from James Windley, TalkNerdyWithUs. Please go ahead.

James Hey, Jussie. How are you?

Jussie Hey, how are you?

James Iím good, Iím good. So my question is more about the music. I recently read an article that the song ďHemingwayĒ that was used in the show, you said that you had started playing with that idea, written it before you were cast on Empire. So my question is how much input do you have into what your character sings and then the music overall for the show?

Jussie Well, I have input obviously in what Jamal does. Iím not about to roll up into Yazzís sessions and be like, ďYazz, brother, youíve got to do it like this.Ē Hell, no. Let him try to come and show me how to do a run. No, I definitely donítóthat has nothing to do with me, but my music, Iím so blessed because there is such a collaborative thing that happens here at Empire, from the acting and the scripts and all that type of stuff, the writers and the show runner, Ilene, and our creators, Danny and Lee. Theyíre so collaborative, and I think thatís why the show reads, even though itís so big, thatís why the show and the music reads in a very real way.

James Yes.

Jussie Itís because itís so collaborative, and it comes across as really real. So yes, a lot of the songs, ďI Want to Love You,Ē which was in Season One, that was written for my album. I was working as an indy artist, and that was written before Empire. ďAll of the Above,Ē I wrote that before Empire and recorded it before Empire. So when Season One happened, I was also pulling songs that I wanted to release on my album and was pitching them.

James Right.

Jussie Oh, yeah, another thing, this episode, I believeóor maybe itís next episodeóthereís a song called ďCome Undone,Ē which is my song that I wrote literally four years ago before Empire. So I do have a say, but the thing is that the team that Iím working with this season is so phenomenal, the whole Darkchild [ph] team, I love that everybody this season has their own team so that everything is tailor-made to that artist, and I love that.

James Right. Thatís awesome. All right. Then one more question, does it ever wake you in the middle of the night the fear that Taraji [ph] is recording you sleeping?

Jussie Every f**king day because itís become this thingóthis is the thing is that Iím the most brilliant at this. All these other mark a** busters on the set, they think theyíre cute about it, but hereís the thing, bro, hereís the thing, they all got it from me. So Iím the original. Iím the original. So itís all good, but the problem is that because Iím so good at it, everybody wants to try to get their little shine, their little [audio disruption] by videotaping me. So Iím always on guard, and I get tired. I get tired. So in between takes sometimes, weíre waiting for a different setup, I do fall asleep, and a lot of people over the last months or the last being back for Season Three have gotten me. Thatís fine, and Grace has posted something today on the Empire fan pageóI know sheís posting itóof where she got me. But thatís all right because I donít need to get them anymore. Iím getting them in other ways. Watch.

James Right. Okay. Thatís cool.

Jussie Raising s**t up, raise it up.

James All right. Well, thank you very much.

Jussie All right, man. Yíall keep your eyes open.

Moderator Our next question is from Erika Monroy with Universal. Please go ahead. Erika, your line is open.

Erika Hi.

Jussie Hey, Erika.

Erika Yes. Hi.

Jussie How are you?

Erika Thank you very much for the time.

Jussie Thank you.

Erika I want to know how difficult is being part of this family, because I know this is a drama family, too. So I want to know how difficult it is being part of this family.

Jussie I would think that being a part of the Lyon family would be very difficult although I also think that it has its perks. For me playing a part of the Lyon family, itís sometimes difficult because with the scenes that we have to play, theyíre so emotional, and we genuinely truly love each other. But thereís also a level of the reason why itís not difficult is because we all trust each other, we all trust each other in real life, and I think again, thatís why the show comes across as so real, and you believe us as a familyógood, bad and uglyóbecause we all genuinely love each other and are like a family. When we get on each other nerves, itís like a family, when we are loving on each other, itís like a family. But itís so family.

Erika Yes. I also want to know you just said that in the í90s, we have our biggest stars in music like Mariah. So I want to know your opinion about nowadays, whatís happened with these big, big stars that I think that we donít have any more like this big?

Jussie Well, thatís the thing, I think that every one of these big stars, they make their own. As any performer, you make your own path, and thereís a huge freeway. Everybody has their lane. But I actually disagree. I think that there are a lot of incredible artists out now that are our generationís superstars. So I think there are a lot of great artists, but whatever we grow up on, we are turning into our parents because whatever they grew up on, that was absolutely the best. So whatever we grew up on, thatís absolutely the best. We are going to look down on everybody else just like the next generation will do the same. So thatís just the way it goes.

Erika Perfect. Thank you very much.

Jussie Thank you.

Alex Okay. We have time for one more question

Moderator That question comes from the line of Ny Magee Eurweb. Please go ahead.

Ny Hello, Jussie. Thank you for speaking with us this morning.

Jussie Thank you. Itís Nya?

Ny Ny, N-y, Ny.

Jussie Ny. Nice to meet you.

Ny Yes. Nice to meet you, too. Thank you. My question is in terms of Jamalís growth over the past two seasonsóbecause I know you probably canít spoil anything about this seasonóbut in terms of his growth over the past two seasons, which character arc has been most rewarding for you to explore?

Jussie This character arc in the third season because itís trying in a way that is itís absolutely exhausting, itís emotionally exhausting. See, before it was emotionally exhausting because I felt like I had to dig up so much old stuff, and I had to be honest, and I had to be real. But now Iím doing that, but also, this takes a lot of work.

After a scene, you feel like youíre literally about to pass out. But I love it so much as an actor. Itís such an actorís dream to be able to sing and do all of this wonderful, wonderful stuff but also to be able to dip so deep into what this character is going through. Thatís my favorite. Definitely so far, this is my favorite arc that Iíve had a chance to play because I feel like I have to be bold in it.

Ny Thank you, and if I can ask a really quick follow-up question really quick, can you talk a bit about your character that youíre playing an Alien Covenant?

Jussie No, I cannot because I literally signed a phonebook. I think I have to give up my firstborn. But what I can say is that he is a member of the covenant, and itís awesome. Listen, working with Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender and Carmen Ejogo and Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, just such an awesome crew. Iíve been so blessed in these casts that I get to be a part of that we actually are cool with each other. I havenít run into any castóknock on wood yetóthat Iíve worked with where Iím like, damn, I hate these people, God, I want to go home. Itís always been cool. So that was a great thing. I donít know if that answered any of your questions about Alien, but itís going to be dope. It comes out August 4, 2017, and itís pretty incredible. Itís kind of scary.

Ny Thank you very much.

Jussie Thank you.

Alex Great. Thank you. That concludes our conference call. Thank you to Jussie for joining us. Roxanne, did you want to give the replay information?

Moderator Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, this conference will be made available for replay after 11:40 a.m. this morning through October 5, 2016 at midnight.

That concludes our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference Service. You may now disconnect.

Jussie Thank you.

Alex Thank you.

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