Malik Yoba, who played one of Terrence Howard’s character Lucious Lyons’ trusted right-hand men in the monstrously-successful TV show “Empire,” claimed he didn’t know why Fox execs had his character killed off on the show after only one season.
Yoba was reportedly terminated on the show for outing down low gay actor and fellow “Empire” star Jussie Smollet. The co-creator of the show is critically-acclaimed and award-winning director Lee Daniels, who has long been openly gay and is a celebrity activist on LBGT causes.
Yoba insinuated that Daniels killed off his character in an act of vengeance after Yoba accidentally outed Smollet (who plays Jamal Lyons) in an interview he did with Blackfilm.com.
“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.”
Yoba tried to Moonwalk back from his comments in a subsequent interview with USA Today, saying he was “misquoted in the article. My reference to Jussie was only about his character and storyline on Empire.”
Too little too late. By the time the words splashed across cyberspace the next day, it caused a minor implosion on the set of “Empire.” Yoba said when he asked Daniels why his character had to die, Daniels told him execs at Fox TV said “somebody” had to die.
Smollet, who now claims he was never in the closet to begin with, had declined to announce his sexual orientation until he finally came out on Ellen Degeneres’s show. There, he intimated his preference without actually uttering the words “I’m gay.”
“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,” Smollet said in a recent radio interview with DJ Sway in February. “This is not a gay black show. This is a show about human experiences,” he added. “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.”