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If you caught Empire this week, then you might have been a little surprised to see Raven-Symone on your screen as Jamal’s baby’s mother, Olivia (so she says). She got into the role, sort of by surprise. Symone told Vulture, she was in Chicago visiting Jussie Smollet, who plays Jamal, on the set, and she got a call from her manager saying she was wanted on the show.

WARNING: Slight spoilers ahead.

Here’s what we know about Olivia:

  1. Olivia was Jamal’s backup singer.
  2. She was Jamal’s beard, meaning she was his fake girlfriend to cover up him being gay. “[Olivia] was a part of his life for a few years for — how do I say this? — contractual and covering-up reasons,” said Symone.
  3. She might sing on the show.

Symone continues to say that she might not be a main character for the rest of the season, but she will be seen here and there in a few episodes. Symone, who is currently dating model AzMarie Livingston (she will also appear on Empire), said that she “wasn’t impressed or surprised” that Jamal’s character dated a woman even though he is gay.

I wasn’t impressed or surprised because we live in a culture where people have to hide who they truly love from the beginning. You’ll see a man married to a woman or a woman married to a man, but after 15, 25, or 30 years get divorced and then say, “I’m gay.” It’s just because of the hatred that comes in our society; people don’t understand. So, it didn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is the outcome of the situation at the end of the next episode you see me in. But him being with a woman or having a kid, in that sense, doesn’t surprise me at all. It happens every day.

Let’s not forget that this is the second time Symone is playing a character named Olivia. (She played Olivia on The Cosby Show in 1989.) It was something she was pretty excited about.

And when I found out that was the name, the first thing that came to my mind was that was my first name in this industry! I did a lot after that and then I took my little retirement break, in my mind, and I come back on the scene with the same name in some real juicy scenes! It’s a good omen. So anytime I hear that name Olivia, I’m gonna definitely pay attention to it because it’s connected with some great material.


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Here’s What We Know About Raven-Symone’s Character On ‘Empire’  was originally published on