The Lyons brothers of Fox’s Empire broke out of the studio to grace the cover of Essence this month. Jussie Smollet, Bryshere “Yazz” Gray and Trai Byers each appear individually, and come together for a fourth cover in breezy summer looks—a departure from the vibrant outfits they wear as hip-hop big shots on the family drama. The series had an explosive debut season, averaging 17.3 million viewers per episode. Chris Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys have even signed on to appear in season 2.
In the Essence interview, Smollet discusses how he landed his role as middle son Jamal Lyons on the hit series: “I jumped on Instagram and direct-messaged Lee [Daniels] and said, ‘Sir, I know you get this all the time, but I’m a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and musician. I am Jamal Lyon in more ways than one.'”
Smollet goes on to talk about how his coming out on The Ellen DeGeneres Show has inspired young people to do the same, and Gray opens up about his similar experience mentoring youths. “I would hear things like, ‘My dad was never in my life…'” Gray tells Essence, “and my response was, ‘My dad was never in my life…Don’t feel like you don’t matter.'”
Get your fill of the Lyons brothers in Essence‘s June issue before the first half of Empire’s 18-episode season returns this fall.