If you caught Wednesday’s midseaon finale of Fox’s Empire, you know that it was revealed that Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Skye (Alicia Keys) hooked-up!
Yes, apparently off-camera the fictional duo hit the sheets! This move set many viewers aflame, because of the fact that Jamal is gay, so how come he would now turn to a woman? Series star Jussie Smollett and Empire creator Lee Daniels, both out in real life defended the story choice, as did executive producer, Ilene Chaiken.
There was even a moment in the midseason finale where Jamal’s homophobic father Lucious (Terrence Howard) is proud of the fact that it looks like Skye “changed” Jamal, which reinforces the notion still believed by some, that a gay man can turn straight for the right woman.
Jussie and Lee spoke to TV Insider on this controversial story point, where Daniels admitted: “I went into this hoping Jussie and I would not get backlash from our people. But I’m prepared for it. This is a topic that needs to be discussed, not just on Empire but also within the gay community and especially within the African-American community. I was able to get a lot off my chest with the Jamal-Skye relationship. Jussie and I both share the same feeling that, yes, even though we are gay, we’re sexual human beings. And we do occasionally want to sleep with a woman. [Laughs] Maybe once every 10 or 15 years, but it happens!”
Smollett says the connection with Skye was about intimacy more than sex relating: “These are two misunderstood people who connect when they create music together, something that happens all the time with artists. Skye and Jamal are brought together in a way the audience may not necessarily understand—and maybe it’s not for anybody to understand except for them. This may sound crazy, but I think Jamal’s thing with Skye is one of the most honest and pure relationships he’s had in a long, long time. He’s not getting anything close to that from men right now. Skye is an artist in a box who wants to break out of that box and no one understands that better than Jamal. They’ve both been labeled and that’s something they can bond over. Right now, they only have each other.” The talented actor/singer went on to say: “Jamal is a gay man having a bisexual experience. No one is saying he has fallen in love with Skye. But if you’re gonna go straight for anybody, it should be for the sexy and brilliant Alicia Keys. I mean, Bruh!”
Meanwhile series EP, Ilene Chaiken told TV Line if she was worried of the pushback by having Jamal sleep with a woman, to which she answered: “Yes and yes, Thematically, the conversations we love having on Empire are about identity, labels, fluidity. Those are core issues for us — and really interesting, provocative stories to tell. Plus, the story of gay identity has been told on television. We felt ready to push beyond, to talk about all of the nuances of experience and not be bound by the conventional script. And with the number of gay people involved in the creating and writing of this show, we talked about all of our experiences. There’s a spectrum of gay identity, behavior and attraction. And we wanted to talk about it in a provocative way based on experiences we all had. And Lee Daniels and Jussie Smollet come at it from certain points of view — and I’m very interested in hearing what actors have to say about the characters they play. There are gay men and gay women who, at least on occasion, have found themselves at least fleetingly attracted to someone of the opposite sex. And Lee and I have discussed how as artists, especially, when you’re creating. how exciting and sexual that can be. It felt like a great story to tell for Jamal — if he really connects with an artist who happens to be a woman, and they have this momentary spark — what could stop that from happening. And why shouldn’t we tell that story?”
So, what are your thoughts on the plotpoint: Do you see it plausible that Jamal and Skye slept together? Did you like the story beat? Did it not sit well with you? What did you think of the explanation of the shock value to the story beat from Smollett, Daniels, and Chaiken? Did you enjoy the midseason finale of Empire? What was your favorite moment in it, since it contained much more then this controversial story beat? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!