Empire creator Lee Daniels revealed this week that he and star Jussie Smollett have received death threats over the hit show’s gay story lines, the Wrap is reporting.
Speaking during a panel discussion at Produced By 2015 — an annual symposium of writers, producers, and actors in the TV and movie industries — Daniels said that homophobia exists in the black community, and that it’s reflected not only in the show, but in the way some fans have reacted to certain elements of it.
“Homophobia is real. It exists … Jussie and I both get death threats. But we will continue to do our thing until homophobia is done.”
Neither Daniels nor Jussie Smullett — who are both openly gay — elaborated on where those death threats came from, or gave any specifics.
Still, if social media is any indication, Jussie Smullett’s gay character on Empire is, at the very least, a lightning rod for criticism.
Whenever Jamal is doing gay stuff in empire I have to cover the screen, I’m sorry I can’t watch that. 😖
— Jake Peralta (@Abs_Mu) June 3, 2015
Why does Jamal Lyon have to be gay in real life too as well as in Empire! Uh :(((( — Alice (@aliceedawson) June 3, 2015
“I love it, don’t care about all dat @_Brayz: Perhaps the most annoying part of Empire is having to deal with all the gay stuff 😩😴”
— Dr. General Fimi (@ItsMrFimi) May 24, 2015
One particular scene that resonated with viewers, according to Sport Act, involved Jussie Smullett’s character getting thrown in a trash can by his father, angry at his son for wearing women’s clothes.
“I have to relate to these people honestly. That trash can scene? It happened.”
Daniels didn’t elaborate on whether the events in that scene happened to him, or to Smullett, or someone else entirely.
In fact, homophobia in the black community is a very real problem, says actor Tyler James Williams in a Huffington Post interview.
“Whether we like to address it or not, the African American community is notoriously homophobic. We have been coming up on this rough side of the mountain, as far as civil rights issues go, but we haven’t necessarily addressed the fact that there is a whole other side to that civil rights coin, which are gay rights.”
Do you believe that Lee Daniels and Jussie Smullett need to tone down the gay story lines in Empire, or are they important to the characters and the community at large? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Angela Weiss]