'Empire' Creator Lee Daniels Opens Up About Getting Death Threats: 'Homophobia is Real'

by Zach Seemayer 8:59 PM PDT, May 31, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Despite social progress being made in many fields of entertainment, and the country in general, some seriously hateful feelings still exist and those that share them can be quite aggressive. Just ask director-producer Lee Daniels, who recently revealed that he's been the target of death threats.

Daniels, the writer and executive producer of the hit Fox drama Empire, spoke at the 7th annual Produced By conference in Los Angeles where he opened up about some of the intense push-back he's received due to the show and story lines tackling homosexuality and homophobia, Variety reported.

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Daniels, who was joined on the panel by several Empire co-producers and the show's co-creator/writer Danny Strong, said that Empire's depiction of a gay African-American man in the world of hip-hop generated intense hatred among some viewers.

"Homophobia is real. It exists," Daniels said. "Jussie [Smollett] and I both get death threats."

On Empire, Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, son of hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard), who has an adversarial relationship with his father because Jamal is gay.

However, in spite of threats and controversy, Daniels says he is resolute in his decision to tackle social issues on the hit show.

"We will continue to do our thing,” Daniels told the receptive panel audience.

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Empire's first season ended in March, and the show's highly anticipated 18-episode second season premieres Sept. 23 on Fox.

Check out the video below for a look at 12 stars we'd like to see come back to Empire in season 2.