Jussie Smollett (Pic: Dominick D)
Openly gay Empire star Jussie Smollett has spoken out about the crackdown by some African countries on TV shows that feature LGBT characters.
The 35-year-old actor, singer and photographer was in South Africa recently to shoot a music video and promote the fourth season of Empire.
In an interview with Channel24, Smollett was asked his thoughts on censors in a number of African countries forcing MultiChoice’s DSTV to drop programmes because they include gay or transgender characters or themes.
In November, Kenya’s homophobic censors ordered MultiChoice to ban the gay affirming teen show, Andi Mack, because it was a “deliberate glorification of homosexuality”.
In June, MultiChoice was ordered by the same censors to block six series on the Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network channels for “promoting the deviant LGBT agenda”.
The company has also acceded to similar demands from Nigerian censors in the past, banning shows such as the two award-winning transgender reality series I Am Cait and I Am Jazz.
“Here’s the thing,” said Smollett, “Art is supposed to reflect the times. Artists and their art are supposed to reflect the world that we live in.”
He continued: “So, at the end of the day you can’t have something on TV that is only reflecting one point of view that is not even true but the point of view that someone wants to get out there. That is propaganda.
“I don’t fully know enough about all that to get deeply into it, but what I do know is that art is here to change lives. Art should have the freedom to do so. That is why you have the freedom to turn off the TV channel. It’s as simple as that.”
Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon, the gay son of entertainment giant Lucious in Empire, came out to the public in March, 2015 on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
“There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I own a dresser,” he said at time.
In a 2016 interview with Out magazine, Smollett confirmed: “If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man.”