Empire actor Malik Yoba is doing some damage control this week after inadvertently outing his co-star, Jussie Smollett, in an interview with Black Life.
Asked about the success of the show and how he coaches its younger stars on making its impact last, Yoba 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, producer] 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.”
Smollett, whose Empire storyline revolves around his coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out as a gay man, has kept fans in the dark regarding his own sexuality by refusing to address it in interviews.
“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,” he told Sway last month. “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.”
Though Yoba more or less confirmed Smollett was gay to Black Life last month, his comments have only recently gained traction with two camps — those outraged by the alleged outing and those outraged by Smollett’s evasiveness — on Twitter.
Speaking through his publicist in a statement to USA Today Tuesday, Yoba claimed he did not out Smollett. “I was misquoted in the article,” he said. “My reference to Jussie was only about his character and storyline on Empire.
Smollett has remained active on social media all week, but has not addressed Yoba’s comments specifically. On Tuesday, he retweeted the photo he took for Adam Bouska’s NOH8 campaign:
— Jussie Smollett (@JussieSmollett) March 4, 2015