Lee Daniels, the writer, director, and producer of Fox's hit Empire, already told us one reason why he went to a network with his soapy show about a hip-hop family. “The audience that is important for this show can't afford HBO," he told Out. "I'm talking about people that are impoverished, or people that haven’t come out of their communities, or haven’t left their blocks or their cities, and haven’t seen the world. Oftentimes, a lot of these people are homophobic, I feel.” Daniels explained that Timbaland, who's responsible for crafting the catchy hits from the show, was uncomfortable with Jamal, the gay character played by Jussie Smollett, kissing his boyfriend in the pilot. But they kept the kiss in.
Now Daniels, in a recent video interview with Canada's Daily Xtra taped before the premiere of the pilot, revealed that audience members who were tasked with rating how much they enjoyed an Empire episode on a scale between “Zero they hate it, 10 they love it”
“They’re at a 10 until the two men kiss. Then it’s down to a zero,” he said. Daniels went on to analyze the reaction, explaining there are “a hundred people in the room, most of them, 90 percent of them, 95 percent of them were heterosexual — didn’t want to admit to their homophobia, so they just sort of look at the floor.”
Daniels is not backing down when it comes to the gay content of the show, however. He says that gay people are “third-class citizens” and that “there’s a stigma to being gay that… the world can’t shake. There’s something about two men being together.” He went on to state that the LGBT movement is “the civil rights of our time right now, and I think we have to not back down.”
Watch the full interview below: