Interview: ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett on directing Season 4, his new single and the power of love

Jussie Smollett’s award-winning portrayal of R&B singer/songwriter Jamal Lyon on FOX’s hit show, “Empire,” has earned him widespread critical acclaim. Cast as a character who is all heart, the performer’s real-life authenticity highlights his range of extraordinary talent both on-screen and off. Now, it looks like the actor/singer/songwriter will be expanding his repertoire and taking on a new role. “I’m going to be directing an episode of ‘Empire’ this season,” Smollett shared with AXS at the 49th NAACP Image Awards. “I’m just kind of getting behind the scenes, just to push it forward and do the things I want to do.”

While the show announced a brief hiatus last year, fans can expect the second half of Season 4 to return in the spring of 2018. The actor also revealed that there are actually going to be a lot of other major things he’ll be making public this year. “Things that I’m producing,” he announced. “Some with my sister, Jurnee, and some by myself.”

Smollett says he’s thrilled to soon be back in front of the camera doing more “Empire” and has really enjoyed branching out in other areas as well. The entertainer had command of the video to his new single, "Freedom," off his debut album Sum Of My Music, due March 2. It stars Tika Sumpter and Cynthia Erivo.

“The next one will be a single that’s called ‘Catch Your Eye’ with Swizz Beatz. I directed that visual also and then the third is called ‘Hurt People.’ I directed that in South Africa. I’m excited,” he added, “I just feel really blessed; really happy.”

The artist says no matter what he’s creating, his motivation all originates from the same place. “The only thing that inspires me is love, in every single way. Love for each other, lack of love, greed, politics; to me, love is the root of everything good and bad in the world. That guides me and that’s what I lead with, at least I try to every day.”

Whether it’s as Jussie Smollett or Jamal Lyon, one thing that is universal, is how much the performer puts into each body of work. A storyteller underneath it all, Smollett’s versatility shines not only in what he does, but how he does it. “Music is the truth,” his character once stated on the show. For someone like Smollett who comes from a place of honesty, it’s a practice both on-screen and off that sends a powerful message.

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