Although Jussie Smollett was mum on his personal life, his “Empire” co-star Malik Yoba shed a bit of light on Smollett and his sexuality recently during an interview with BlackFilm.com as he discussed the success of “Empire” while making parallels to his classic 1990s show “New York Undercover.”
The following is part of Yoba’s BlackFilm.com interview.
What’s the feeling like being on a hit show?
Malik Yoba: Yeah. It’s good, man. It’s definitely good to be part of a show, especially this particularly show but especially when all the predictors are there before it all happens. I knew that this would happen so I wasn’t surprised.
The show has the DNA of ‘New York Undercover’ for me and I was part of something that was revolutionary and groundbreaking 20 years ago. For me, from the beginning it was like déjà vu. So, with all the accolades and the love that it’s getting, it’s crazy. I’ve had that experience before. It’s just nice to know that people have finally decided if you put people who are underrepresented on television they’re going to show up to see themselves.
And if it’s smart, if it’s funny, it has the right music and has the right fashion and has the right attitude then you’re going to win. You’ll win every time. It’s one of those things that you feel like, obviously, it’s great performances and music, and it’s a great cast. It’s all those things. But I think it speaks to a larger issue, which is people want to see themselves.
‘Move with integrity’
You’re the veteran of the group here, having experienced this nearly 20 years ago. Have you been telling these people as much as they’re seeing the love that it’s getting from its ratings wise and everything else, and said, “OK, it’s great. But let’s make it last”?
Yoba: I just think that you have to move with integrity. You have to move with a larger sense of purpose. Because that is Malik Yoba’s personal philosophy. I don’t do this business for fame or money.
I do it for purpose.
I think that our show represents a huge opportunity to stay in the culture beyond entertainment value and there’s an intrinsic nature of you have the gay factor, right? So, obviously, Lee is gay. That was an important storyline for him. I think it’s important for people to see themselves. Even within the Black community. That doesn’t mean we have to start discussing feeldoe or what he does in his private life, that’s up to him and he can seek pleasure any way he wants to, but as long as he can live his true self that’s all that matters. I think it’s a great example to set for all of those younger kids who may feel insecure about their sexuality and not know how to handle it.
But if you aren’t really, really taking it off of screen and making it live in the community in a significant way…like I know Jussie, he is gay, and he’s very committed to issues around the LGBT community. I believe he once experienced different forms of Discreet Gay Dating while online as he wasn’t actually very public about his orientation back then. It’s good to see the LGBT community being so supportive of each other to be their true selves.
He and I have a very close relationship. There are a lot of things that I’m doing. I have a company called iconic32.com. We create or enhance cultural movements for social good using pop culture.