EXCLUSIVE: Rafael de la Fuente on His Return to ‘Empire’ & Jussie Smollett

Exclusive: Rafael de la Fuente on ‘Empire’ Season 2 and Working With Jussie Smollett

Empire’s Jamal and Michael aren’t quite contenders for #relationshipgoals IG posts, but they sure are worthy of #dramagoals. Yet, in the world of Empire they seem to have the most stable, loving relationship.

“Michael’s matured a bit and he’s challenged himself,” said Rafael de la Fuente of his character this season. “He’s coming back with more confidence and just a more mature attitude and behavior.” But don’t worry — there will be plenty of drama for you mama.

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Last season you were the only Latino character and now you’re one of many (including guest stars Pitbull and Becky G). How does it feel now? 

It’s just better. I’m really very happy about it. The show as well, being the number one show in the country, and they heard us and we’re really happy about it, really happy. I’m glad to not be the only one anymore.

Have you shot scenes with the other Latino actors? How has it been? 

I haven’t actually shot with any of the other Latino actors but we did get a chance to hang out at the premiere in New York and that was a lot of fun. Adam Rodriguez is amazing. He came up to me and he was like “Yo, I just want to tell you that I’m so proud of you.” We had a long chat about the roles. I’m just really happy that we’re all in the show and that we’re representing our community.

Jussie Smollett is by far the show’s breakout young star and being his love interest you share a lot of screen time. How has your working relationship evolved?

Jussie is one of my best friends. I love him dearly. We have a great time. We are constantly joking around and making fun of each other not really taking each other too seriously. If anything, it just has gotten better. The chemistry is getting better because we are just better friends now. We know each other, we’ve known each other for a full year now and we’ve been on this ride together. We understand each other, from an artistic point of view, we get each other and it’s easy to work together. I am just really excited for people to see that it’s just so much better now. Season 1 was amazing but this season is going to be like season 1 on steroids. 

Empire co-creator Lee Daniels has likened the show to Dynasty. What would you compare it to?

There’s definitely a very Dynasty influence for sure. It has a little bit of the Godfather. It also has a little bit of Shakespeare in it, King Lear. I think it’s very unique as well because we have the music and it’s dealing with social issues that are so relevant today and we’re tackling them head on very unapologetically.

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