Actor Jussie Smollett (pictured left) plays the gay middle-child in the Lyon family on Fox’s new show Empire, and has been deliberate in avoiding questions about his own sexuality in the media. But one of his fellow actors, Malik Yoba, may have outed him.
Jussie has taken the Kevin Spacey approach, essentially saying his personal life isn’t up for grabs. In an interview with Sway last month, he said:
“No, (fans shouldn’t assume I’m gay), but it’s also fair, and I don’t see a problem with that and I don’t really care. … This is not a gay black show. This is a show about human experiences. … I’m not willing to confirm or deny anything. I live my life. If someone is looking for a box to put me in, that’s not going to happen. I live my life, and if you really want to know about me, just watch, because I don’t hide anything. I just don’t choose to talk about my personal life.”
But in a recent Q&A, Yoba was asked about the success of the series and its impact, and specifically brought up the gay representation on the show. He said:
“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 (Daniels, co-creator) is gay. That was an important storyline for him. I think it’s important for people to see themselves. Even within the Black community. 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. He and I have a very close relationship.”
Many on social media were upset that Yoba apparently outed his costar.
Here’s some of that reaction:
Hey Malik Yoba! One doesn’t out people. Period. even to say, that he/she was my LOVER, is indelicate, impolite… http://t.co/zFpQxOScJB
— Dee Dixon (@PDeeDixon) March 3, 2015
.@MalikYoba it is a form of violence to publicly out someone, especially in an pro-monolithic industry.
— the III. ? (@GeekNStereo) March 3, 2015
Malik Yoba done put Jussie Smollet’s business in the streets. That’s not nice! — ?????? (@callmedollar) March 2, 2015
Now in a statement to USA Today via his publicist, Malik is backpedaling, saying he was misquoted:
“I was misquoted in the article. My reference to Jussie was only about his character and storyline on Empire.”