Empire, known for welcoming a who’s who of famous guest stars, featured cameos from Alicia Keys and Rosie O’Donnell Wednesday night, along with series co-creator Lee Daniels, who stepped out from behind the camera for a small role. Vivica A. Fox, who plays Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) older sister, also returned for the star-studded episode.
Alicia Keys took on the role of Skye Summers, a famous pop singer who, despite her fame, is itching to get away from mainstream music and looking to create more meaningful tunes, leading her to team up with Jamal (Jussie Smollett) to record a track for Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) Empire.
By the end of the episode, after making sweet, sweet sounds together, Skye and Jamal — who very publicly came out at the end of last season, and recently broke up with his long-term boyfriend after catching him cheating — locked lips by the piano.
“The writers were already breaking a story in which — shock of shocks — Jamal hooks up with a girl, after all he’s been through,” showrunner Ilene Chaiken tells Variety of the surprising storyline. “It’s a conversation that happens among gay people about sexual fluidity — about being devoutly gay, if you will, but there’s a spectrum. There are some folks who aren’t attracted to people of the opposite sex at all, but there are some gay folks who sometimes do find themselves unexpectedly and momentarily attracted. Especially when you’re involved in a creative endeavor, those sparks can flare up because when you do something creative with someone and it really catches fire, there’s just nothing sexier.”
Clearing up Jamal’s sexuality, Chaiken adds, “We’re very clear that Jamal is gay and Jamal is clear that he’s gay, but it just happened. Isn’t personal agency all about being able to act on something in the moment and owning yourself and not having to explain it or justify it?”