Empire’s Back and So Is Jussie Smollett

Danielle C. Belton/ The Root | 10/8/2015, 1:48 p.m.
The actor-activist promises that season 2 will outdo its dramatic predecessor. Empire is going to be crazier this season. That’s ...
Jussie Smollett

The actor-activist promises that season 2 will outdo its dramatic predecessor.

Empire is going to be crazier this season. That’s what one of the Fox show’s stars, Jussie Smollett, promises. That Empire will be much crazier than last season is a feat that sounds impossible, but Smollett swears the writers, actors and producers embraced the craziness challenge and kicked the drama up beyond a few notches, going for several stories high of drama.

Pearls will be clutched.

Gasps will be audible.

Mics will be dropped.

“Let me tell you something, season 2 is gonna make season 1 look like The Brady Bunch,” Smollett says in an interview with The Root. “Season 2 is a lot.”

In a wide-reaching interview, Smollett talks about everything, from Empire to his music career to his work as an activist. (“I believe that we’re all responsible. Jay Z is responsible just as Reese Witherspoon is responsible. Not one over the other.”) But as the new season kicks off Wednesday night, he knows what Empire fans want to hear—that the drama is back and will be wilder than ever.

“It’s just a lot,” he says, and despite the vagueness, it still sounds exciting. Anything could appear in that “a lot,” with Empire patriarch Lucious in prison; its matriarch, Cookie, on the hunt as always; and Smollett’s Jamal starting the season as both the head of Empire Records—and the head everyone is gunning for.

There will also be some tension between the fan-favorite duo—Cookie and Jamal—a pair some have called “America’s favorite couple.” That’s a title whose oedipal overtones mildly disturb Smollett (“I’d like America’s favorite duo instead of America’s favorite couple,” he insists). They start the season apart, but never fret, says Smollett. Those two have a real bond that goes beyond business squabbles.

“They’re kind of at odds in the beginning, but the great thing about Cookie and Jamal is that they will always find their way back to each other,” says Smollett. “You know because that’s a relationship between a mother and a son that is a type of relationship that is unbreakable. Not just because they’re mother and son but because of the type of mother and son that they are.

“People ain’t always going to agree with the decisions that Cookie makes or that Jamal makes,” he continues, “but, you know, I keep saying that they’re kind of like your homie that makes some bad decisions but you love them still and you just wait for them to get it right.”

A singer and songwriter, Smollett promises that he’ll have his own album of “good-ass music” out in 2016, but for now, his main priority is Empire. He admits he has little time for anything else.

“When I tell you that there’s barely time to go and pee, that’s not an overexaggeration,” he says. But Smollett is fine with letting Jamal’s music take center stage at the moment.

“I still feel like Jamal’s music is my music because I have such a huge input on the music and I’m still writing some on season 2 and I’m the vocalist. So that right there, in many ways, Jamal’s music is my music,” he says. “But my personal album will be coming out definitely in 2016.”