A Cocktail Conversation & Guest Bartender with Empire’s Jussie Smollett

Kidnapping, conniving, and betrayal all set to the beat of a sexy soundtrack.  Oh yeah, baby, Empire is back!  After a three month hiatus the show returns tonight (8pm ET on FOX) to continue season four.  Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon, hung out for a Cocktail Conversation to talk about schmoozing the writers, going behind the camera, and why he’s rooting for Cookie and Lucious to make it work.

Worshipping a Demi Goddess

Tonight we see Lucious in a plot inspired by the classic Misery. Playing the role of delusional fan is Demi Moore, who plays crazy like nobody’s business. Jussie assures us it’s just an act, saying “She’s just wonderful and a great actor and a sweetheart in real life like such a kind woman.”

If her episodes from the first part of the season are any indication, she may be kind in real life but is gonna turn up the crazy tonight.

And Jussie says this episode is gonna feel very different. “This episode is interesting because it’s almost like a standalone episode itself if you will.” But he promises it will make the long hiatus worth the wait, “It wraps up a lot of story lines and by the end I think that as stressful as the episode is I think by the end everybody’s, you know, will be content and happy because you sorta see.”

Love for Lucious & Cookie?

Jussie was clearly excited for what’s to come and struggled not to share classified details, “I’m trying not to give too much away but you sorta see a light at the end of the tunnel for Lucious and Cookie and for the first time we see, maybe not the first time, but in a real way we see wow they’re like working through stuff they’re trying to make this work.”

Wait wait wait!  Could good things really be in store for one of TV’s most deliciously dysfunctional couples?  When we suggested that conflict and confrontation is more fun, Jussie was having none of it. “No I wanna see Cookie and Lucious together man. Like, what is this? Look, we can mess around and we can have drama with everybody else. I wanna see these people together. It’s season four man. I’m talking like a fan. I really am. I’m a part of the show but even if I wasn’t a part of the show I’d be such a fan of it.”

Stayin’ Alive

Everyone knows that on a soapy drama like Empire, plot twists can come out of nowhere, kill off a character and bring the actor’s career to a screeching halt.  One ill-conceived joke about a writer’s toupee’ and you can find your character spending the next six episodes in a coma, and a different actor playing the role once he wakes up.

Jussie tries to stay ahead of the game, “I know I’m like are y’all gonna shoot me again?”

“I always go into the writers room before every season starts and I have a meeting with them to just talk to them about what’s gonna happen with Jamal.”

That’s always a good idea, especially before you renew your lease. “And I’m always like ‘Are you going to kill him? Are you going to kill him?’ Let me know so I can get rid of my lease on my apartment in Chicago so I can go and find another job.”

And just in case Empire’s writing team stumbles across our humble blog, he reiterated the point saying “They’re wonderful. I love them all.”

A Wild Ride

The Empire gang just finished shooting the end of season four, and this year has been like none other for Jussie, but for good reason. “It’s been a wild ride. This season for some reason feels like it took two years to shoot but I that’s because I directed an episode so there were many many more elements to the pot than I’m used to.”

Besides playing one of the show’s most complex characters, Jussie added to his workload. “It’s very different. I’m like ‘I just wanna go back and be a dumb actor. But you know directing has been wonderful.”

There are plenty of dumb actors out there, and we do mean plenty, but trust us, Jussie does not fit in that category.

After all this, we deserve a drink!



The Critic’s Guest Bartender’s Cocktail Recommendation


We were more than happy to turn over bartending duties to Jussie, who was more than happy to offer up the perfect cocktail to sip during tonight’s episode.

He suggests a Hot Toddy to warm up from the never ending winter (he was in New York during the fourth nor’easter of the season). “A Hot Toddy and some cookies.”

You look like you’re sipping on a respectable hot tea, but you’re really getting your bourbon on!


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