Last week on “Empire” we saw Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) love triangle possibly implode under the weight of its own social media presence. When D-Major (Tobias Truvillion) made his coming-out a grand gesture of love for all the world to see, it blew up in his face when he walked in on Jamal snuggled up on the couch with Phillip… While still live-streaming.
But therein also lies one of the positives of D-Major’s actions — we got a little more screen time with this other side of the triangle, the military veteran turned support counselor that’s been helping Jamal cope with his addiction. Played by Juan Antonio, who has had guest spots on “Murder in the First” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” Phillip is becoming more and more important to Jamal — both as a voice of reason and as a pillar of support.
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(And if you’ve been scratching your head wondering why Phillip looks so familiar, than you may be one of the 250 million people who watched him very happily get hitched to Beyoncé in her 2011 video “Best Thing I’ll Never Have.” Call it just a little career stepping-stone…)
We got to talk with Juan this week about where he thinks Phillip draws his strength from, if he’ll still have to compete with D-Major for Jamal’s affection, and what he’s learned about the realities of PTSD (and, yes, Beyoncé).
Phillip and Jamal seemingly come from very different worlds. What is it that brings them together?
They definitely have two very different backgrounds. But they’re dealing with the same experiences, going through the same recovery, so they empathize on that level — and that’s what really brought them together. They were able to explore, find they have more in common, so they’ve become this little support system for each other.
Phillip definitely seems to be a pillar for Jamal to lean on. Where does he get that strength?
That military mindset definitely helps him stabilize the situation, but it’s also just that he’s gone through recovery himself. And I think it helps him more when he can help someone else; it adds more support for him, that confirmation that he’s helping someone else move through the process. So this is in a sense therapy for Phillip, while Phillip’s helping Jamal.
Will Phillip get more involved with the Lyon family, or will he stay out of that mess a little?
Everyone is at the mercy of the Lyon family! At some point their wind just scoops you in. He is becoming a little more integrated into the family, sure. He’s present when Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) or Lucious (Terrence Howard) are around — so I think that’s definitely an open area. But with this family, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s all possible.
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D-Major came out in the last episode and is now dealing with the blowback from the hip hop community. Why do you think it’s still an issue?
I think it’s present just because it’s one of those topics that hasn’t been explored a whole lot. Obviously when you have a situation like that people are going to have different opinions about it, speak differently about it. Not everyone has seen enough of [the LGBT community] or the real side of it, and when that happens our imaginations run wild.
This case, specifically, was huge for D-Major to do that — and to have such a grand gesture back-fire like that would be traumatizing for anyone. We’re going to get to see how he deals with that in the future.
So D-Major isn’t going away anytime soon?
I don’t think he’ll splinter off, that’s not his style. I think he’s a persistent person and a persistent presence. It’s a love triangle, you know? Those never just fizzle out.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about PTSD?
I just think more people experience it and might not even realize it. It can be physical but it can also be emotional, so there’s so many reasons why it can spring up in someone’s life. I think more often than not we experience it and don’t know. I hope seeing it in this show, or just on TV, makes someone say “Hey, I’ve experienced that” — and do a little research, and explore it a little more.
You got your start in an incredible way. What was it like being in a Beyoncé video?
Wow. This woman’s grasp is global — she’s an icon. That’s the first person I’ve worked with at that level, but she’s so humble and down to earth. We’d have conversations about our favorite music and like, Stevie Wonder between takes. But then cut to someone saying Action! and she turns into Beyoncé right in front of you? It was a great experience!
“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.