Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning
The world is full of talented people. Some of them are so talented in fact, that there really is no one box to place them in. Jussie Smollett is definitely in that number! When it comes to entertainment there seems to be nothing he cannot do. As a singer, producer, advocate, director, the CEO of his own record label, and a critically acclaimed actor, Mr. Smollett is one of the most formidable gentlemen in all of Tinsel Town. As his hit series, Empire, begins its highly anticipated fifth season, Kontrol Magazine, had to have Jussie to ourselves. Not only did he dish on Empire, he reveals the newest roles in his life, discussed his mysterious boyfriend, and what life AFTER Jamal Lyon looks like for him.
It is hard to believe it has been nearly four years since Empire graced on our television screens. For almost five full seasons now The Lyon Family has had us in their thrall as the fight others—and each other—over Empire Records, the most powerful record label in the music industry. Sure, we love all the Lyons—Lucious (Terrence Howard), Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal, and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray, AKA “Yazz The Greatest”)—but it is clearly the middle Lyon son that serves as the noble center of this tumultuous family. “He [Jamal] is different from his family in how he wants the best for everyone and is kind of like the moral compass for everyone. He really wants his whole family to win. You can even see that in Season 2 when he was he head of Empire, trying to keep the peace and work with everyone…still though, Jamal’s no punk and he will get with you if he has to. Unlike the rest of the family it requires more of a build up [he laughs].”
In the fourth season finale we saw Jamal distance himself from the rest of The Lyons after the death of his friend, Tory Ash (Rumer Willis), relocating to London to grieve and heal. Flash forward to the season premiere and we see two years have past and each of the The Lyons, save Jamal, who has begun his own record label and is in a relationship with a field news reporter, are down on their luck. Andre is serving time for his part in Anika’s (Grace Byers) death, Hakeem is unable to perform due to the damage his lung took after being shot by a white supremacist, and Cookie and Lucious have sold off most of their worldly possessions in an attempt to regain Empire. Whereas Jamal is distressed by his family, Jussie sees the flash forward as a welcomed plot twist. “I see it [the flash forward] as like a soft reset and breathing new life into the series. I’m not saying it was stale, I’m saying it gives us an opportunity to give them [The Lyons] some redemption. They get to build their empire the right way this time—without the drug money and Cookie being locked up, but together as a family, the way it should have been the entire time…without saying too much Jamal really has his work cut out for him this season…” Interestingly, Jussie does hate one issue about the flash forward—having to cut his hair! “I hate it! [He laughs] I definitely prefer having hair, but I know it’s part of driving the story forward showing a passage of time or some kind of change. It’s just weird to me because I’ve always had close to a big curly afro as kid [he laughs] and even now I love my curly hair.”
The series is now only three episodes into the fifth season and is greatly foreshadowing the demise of a main character. It is suspected the victim will be one of The Lyons, and thus far Lucious is the only one we know for sure is not on the chopping block. Jussie, naturally, is mum about Jamal’s fate this season but states if he does survive he would happily play Jamal for another season. Still, Empire, like any other series will eventually come to an end and where does that leave Jussie? What is life for him like beyond and after Empire? The answer is any easy one—it’s amazing! Mr. Smollett is truly living his best life. He recently completed a tour of his critically acclaimed album, Sum Of My Music, and signed R&B girl group, June’s Diary, to his music label, Music of Sound. “I love Empire, I love Jamal, but I’m already setting my life up for life after him with all my ventures…I’ve always been doing that really [he laughs]. I have my label and I’m going to be starring in a project with Jurnee [Smollett-Bell, his younger sister] as well…I love them [June’s Diary], they opened up for me on my tour and they’re one of the most talented groups you’ll ever see. Choosing to sign them was easy [he laughs]. I mean they’re dope!” Jussie went on to reveal that running a label is no walk in the park. “I love music, I love what I do, but it’s really all on you and you have to make sure things are right for the artists signed to you. I’m definitely up for the challenge, but the perspective and value you gain from being the record label teaches you a lot.” Jussie’s plan for life post-Empire is “LIT,” but we have to wonder what about the timeliness of all this. It was recently rumored that Taraji has become tired of playing Cookie, and Jussie does have a lot under his belt. Are Queen Lyon and Noble Lyon set to meet their maker this season? You will just have to keep watching this season of Empire to find out.
It is no secret that Jussie is a very busy man with. He is, as our editor-in-chief, Julian Lark states, “Never not working!” One has to wonder more about how he finds time for a personal or romantic life. It has been revealed that he is “off the market,” in a relationship with man who resides in New York! Try as we may, Jussie would not budge on his name or even his occupation but does confirm he is not someone in the industry. “Ya’ll are trying to get a scoop and get me to name drop [he laughs heartily]! But naw, you ain’t getting that exclusive! We’re great, we’re in love and that’s all I’m gonna tell.” Jussie reports he is very happy and pleased with his relationship; and we are even happier for him. He is a great and attractive guy, who any man would be lucky to have.
When you have accolades like Jussie Smollett, you would think there is no situation you would find yourself starstruck. For him, this would definitely be a false assumption, as one megastar has his heart, Janet Jackson. Recently he got to perform for at her tribute during the 2018 BMI Awards where she received her the BMI Icon Award. “Man that was so surreal! I was completely honored. There are only a few artists who have made a powerful impact on my life and she [Janet Jackson] is one of them. I got to perform in the tribute to her and I was watching her watch me and it was just the best feeling in the world. Words can’t describe it. Afterwards I took my mother to the back to meet her and was like, ‘We’re just gonna be real quick and meet and greet with her, because Janet’s really tired.’ Well lemme tell you my mother, met her and that went right out the window [he laughs]. But Janet’s amazing, that’s something I will never forget.” Jussie definitely has all the makings of an icon and we are sure in the not too distant future some starstruck performer will be singing and dancing his praises.
Talking with Jussie really is like kicking it with one of your homeboys. The conversation is always fresh and popping, and you never want it to end. We practically grew up with as he grew up on television and in movies and are so happy with the man he has become. If there is one thing Jussie wants people to learn from him it is “that nothing worthwhile is ever going to be easy, but you’ve got to go for it. Be relentless. Do the damn thing!” Well said, and well done, Mr. Smollett we are eternally rooting for you!