Daniels made the startling revelation during the 7th annual Produced By L.A. conference at Paramount Studios last week, where he was joined by the series’ producing team.
Daniels said the show’s focus on showing African-American stories highlights a more realistic version of how black people interact. The show isn’t always easy for viewers, primarily because much focus is on homophobia in the black community.
“I have to relate to these people honestly,” Daniels said of the show’s diverse audience, “that trash can scene? It happened.”
Daniels was referring to a flashback in the first season where Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon throws his young son Jamal (played by Smollett) into the garbage for donning his mother’s clothing and acting effeminate.
The openly gay movie director and producer said he and Jussie, the show’s openly gay star, both receive death threats.
“Homophobia is real. It exists… Jussie and I both get death threats,” said Daniels while speaking on a panel. “But we will continue to do our thing until homophobia is done.”
Meanwhile, there are unsubstantiated rumors that Daniels is pressing Fox to let him bring in more openly gay actors. “He wants the cast to be 50% gay,” said an insider.
“Empire” returns to Fox for a second, 18-episode season on Sept. 23. Daniels will direct the premiere episode from a script written by co-creator Danny Strong and showrunner Ilene Chaiken.
During the panel discussion, which included producer Brian Grazer, Daniels and his team spoke on what initially attracted them to the project. Grazer said he was sold on the idea when Strong pitched it as a story of hip-hop meets Shakespeare.
“Danny (Strong) just gave me the headline of, ‘King Lear in the world of hip-hop,’ and I knew very little about King Lear, but I did know all about hip-hop.”