After weeks of speculation concerning his sexuality—springing from the fact that he plays a gay character, Jamal, on Empire, as well as comments made by co-star Malik Yoba—Jussie Smollett appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today and cleared the air. On a recent Empire episode, Smollett’s character came out when he performed the song “You’re So Beautiful” at his father’s white party. But the actor had been mum about his personal life and sexuality, until now.
During his on-air interview with DeGeneres, the talk show host attempted to get Smollett to talk about his personal life, when she asked him, “What’s happening in your life?”
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 Get 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 answer probably wasn’t good enough for DeGeneres, because she caught up with Smollett for an after-the-show interview, during which she delved deeper into his personal life.
Smollett praised DeGeneres for her work in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and wanted to assure her that he was never in the closet.
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.
After clearing the air, Smollett joked with DeGeneres about not having to mention the subject of his sexuality again.
“I told Ellen. Who else do I need to tell?” he stated.