We're already addicted to Fox's new hit music industry drama Empire – and its mesmerizing songs that stay with you for hours, often flawlessly sung by Jussie Smollett. (Remember him from The Mighty Ducks?!)
As the son of Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), the uber-talented actor/singer has brought great sensitivity to his role as Jamal, a gay artist struggling to find his way within the hip-hop community. Empire has deftly explored Jamal’s internal angst in dealing with his homophobic dad, all of which are reflected in his troubled lyrics.
While Empire's songs are overseen by Grammy-winning producer Timbaland, Smollett is a songwriter too, and tomorrow's episode will feature one of his original songs.
ETonline caught up with Smollett at the Universal Music Group's post-GRAMMYs party, where we talked about his music, what viewers can expect from the Empirefinale and his surprising pick for his favorite movie soundtrack.
ETonline: Tell us about your own music on Empire.
Jussie Smollett: Right before I booked Empire, I was recording an album. Four songs of mine have been chosen for this season. In the next episode, the song "I Want to Love You," that’s my song that I wrote and produced!
What’s the difference between your own music and your character’s songwriting?
Jamal and I are very similar in that we are both very autobiographical songwriters. These are my stories; I am a songwriter. I get to tell what I go through on a daily basis, my insecurities and triumphs. It will be awesome to flip the script and let people know about me. My music is a little bit more rock infused, more guitar driven, while Jamal’s is very piano driven.
You just shot your last episode for the season.
Yeah, with Debbie Allen directing, which was amazing.
What can we expect from the finale?
You will see the journey of Jamal and the entire Lyons family. Where we started in the pilot is not where we end up in season one. I know we are used to shows that really take their time. But what we are doing is really rolling it out for everybody to see from the beginning. It’s really exciting.
With co-creator Lee Daniels, who directed The Butler and Precious for the big screen, do you think there’s a chance for an Empire movie?
That would be the next level. Like Godfather style -- that would be really dope.
I just started to record my album tonight. Over the next five months, until we start season two, that's what I will be working on. It’s what I was doing before Empire and have worked on for so many years. It’s really what I want to delve into.
You recently lost your own dad. Will you have a song about him on the album?
I don’t know yet. It’s all about what I feel. He’s always with me. Whether the song is about me or not, he’s infused in it.
There is a beautiful picture of him on your Facebook wall.
I loved that man. He looks like a cross between me and Carlos Santana back in the day! He was a good man. He’s up in heaven, switching channels to Fox!
What's your favorite soundtrack?
The Sound of Music! It’s the dopest soundtrack ever!
What's something people don’t know about you?
I love to cook. Taraji [P. Henson] and the cast will come over to my house. I always joke that it's like back in the Harlem Renaissance when Langston Hughes would have people over. It's very exciting and we have a great time.
Any Valentine's Day plans?
I have been so busy I don’t have anyone to go with. No one wants to hang with me! I am going to take my momma out to eat.