Jussie Smollett can relate to his Empire character, Jamal Lyon, "in more ways than one."
Days after being presumably outed by his co-star Malik Yoba, the show's young breakout star came out publicly on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After he skirted giving the talk show host a clear answer when she probed into Smollett's personal life during the interview, Smollett had a change of heart in the green room after the show. "There's never been a closet that I've been in," Smollett told Ellen DeGeneres backstage after filming their interview.
"I don't own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don't have a closet," he added. "But I have a home and that is my responsibility, to protect that home."
He tells Ellen, "What you've done within the LGBT community is very much, in my opinion, kind of like what Michael Jackson did with the Black community, just that you are who you are," he said.
"You're just Ellen. So it was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet," Smollett continued.
"There is without a doubt, no closet that I've ever been in," he said. "And I just wanted to make that clear, but it was most important for me to make that clear to you on your show at this time in the world." He also added, "Let's not read into it the wrong way when I say that I don't talk about my personal life. I'm saying that, but there is no way to hide or deny who God made me, you know?"
Smollett says his sexuality — both on- and off-camera — has caused some social media backlash from the show's so-called fans. "I get some ignorant tweets every once in a while … and I know you're not supposed to respond, but sometimes you got to clap back!" he exclaimed. "I'm a firm believer that people cannot get away with murder ... I just feel that, as tenants of this Earth it's our job to make a difference and make the world better and we can't just sit around and let people spew nasty things and just think that's OK. It's not OK."
Check out the clip below of Jussie's interview with Ellen.
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(Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GQ)