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Empire: Taraji P. Henson praises Jussie Smollett

The ‘Empire’ stars shared a touching moment during EW Fest

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Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Taraji P. Henson had some strong words of praise for her Empire costar Jussie Smollett during Saturday’s inaugural EW Fest.

“What I love is that the world needed you, Jussie,” Henson said to Smollett, who came out as gay in March. “We needed this. People are so afraid. It hurts me. I’m a mother, and I couldn’t imagine my child living in fear to be who they are.”

RELATED: Empire Cast Portraits and Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Smollett discussed his sexuality for the first time during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet,” he said. “There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don’t have a closet, but I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.”

Speaking on Saturday, Henson said she was upset society expected Smollett to comment on his orientation in the first place. “It’s f—ed up that we live in a society where you have to come out. Why? Do I have to come out as a heterosexual? Do I have to tell you, ‘Hey, I’m straight,’ ” she said. “That f—ing bugs me. But the way you handled it was graceful and real, and I think it helped a lot of people.”

Watch Henson discuss her costar in the full EW Fest panel video above (starting at the 16-minute mark).