Lee Daniels has further clarified some controversial comments he made about his new Fox series Star. The musical drama about a trio of singers features a white lead character (played by Jude Demorest) amid a largely black cast and the Empire writer-producer was recently quoted as saying he created the show to help “white people feel better about being white … because right now, there’s a lot of hatred going on.” He then added that he wanted the show to “heal our nation” during a “very dark time” — in reference to Donald Trump’s political ascension.
“When I did my show, Star, it was before Donald Trump was in office,” Daniels said. “I did everything I could so that man wouldn’t be in office. I predicted that we’d be in a civil war, and that was the purpose of creating Star.”
Asked at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California on Wednesday to further expound, Daniels hesitated a bit, concerned how his words would be interpreted. Then he plunged ahead:
“I’m a 57-year-old black man who came to Hollywood with $7 in his pocket and a dream to dare to dream big,” he said. “When we were putting this television show together, we talked about inspirations to me — Dreamgirls, Valley of the Dolls, Paris is Burning — and I was trying to figure out … I knew that question was coming. Why am I putting a white girl — by the way, she’s not the star. The name of the show is Star. It’s an ensemble, very similar to that of Empire … Why am I putting a white girl in the middle of this black environment with a sister who is half-black, with [another] singer who is an entitled very rich black girl, with a transgender [woman] who is…beautiful? Why am I doing that? Why am I doing that now? We’re in a difficult time right now in America. I foresaw where we could be right now and when I said, ‘Heal the nation,’ I think it was about personal healing. Sometimes you’re misquoted. But it was about bringing these girls together and watching these girls come together as a family, as they aspire to their dreams. And though there is racism, I was not saying that there is not racism, that I don’t acknowledge racism. Racism is very, very, very real and you’re talking to somebody that’s experienced it firsthand. I’m not going to let racism define me. I mean, that’s all I can say.”
Star premiered in December on Fox to solid ratings and airs on Wednesday nights.