Out director Lee Daniels says that he's
using his Fox series Empire to “blow the lid off homophobia”
in the African-American community.
Empire centers around Empire
Enterprises, a hip hop music company run by Lucious Lyon (played by
Terrence Howard). Fighting for control of the family empire are
Lucious' ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and their three sons, one
of whom is gay.
During a recent TCA panel on the show,
Daniels was asked about Lucious' hostile opposition to his son's
sexuality. Daniels explained that the homophobia expressed by his
show's central character was based in part on research he conducted
for the 2009 film Precious.
“When I did Precious I had to
do research on AIDS in the 80s, so I went to the Gay Men's Health
Crisis Center in New York City, and I expected to see gay men, and
there were nothing but African-American women and babies with HIV.
And that blew me away,” Daniels
is quoted as saying by TheWrap.com.
He called it a symptom of “rampant”
homophobia in the black community.
“Homophobia is rampant in the
African-American community, and men are on the DL. They don't come
out, because your priest says, your pastor says, mama says, your
next-door neighbor says, your homie says, your bother says, your boss
says [that being gay is wrong]. And they are killing
African-American women. They are killing our women. So I wanted to
blow the lid off ... homophobia in my community.”
Daniels added that a scene in which
Lucious throws his son into a trashcan when he finds him wearing
women's clothing as a child was inspired by his own life.
Daniels discussed the incident in a
2013 interview with Larry King.
“When did you know you were gay?”
“I was five,” Daniels
“Five, that I knew something wasn't
right,” Daniels expanded. “My dad was playing cards one Sunday
with his cop friends and I put on my mother's red pumps, and walked
down the stairs. … And then I got beat. He beat me severely for
“But that didn't stop me, because the
following Sunday I put on her blue high-heel shoes and walked down
the stairs, this time with her purse,” he added.