"Empire" co-star Jussie Smollett, who plays the gay son of a hip-hop music mogul on the Fox hit series, has ended a stream of rumors and speculation by coming out as gay in real life.

On Monday's "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Smollett, 31, sat with DeGeneres in what the host called an addendum to the show they had just taped, telling the actor that "before I walked out, you knocked on the door and said I'd like to talk to you. So this is why we're here."

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Without ever using the word gay, Smollett tells her, "You've been such an inspiration to so many, but also to me. What you've done with, in the LGBT community is very much in my opinion kind of like what Michael Jackson did with the black community just that you are who you are." Adding, "There's never been a closet that I've been in," Smollett explained, "I have a home and that is my responsibility, to protect that home. So that's why I choose not to talk about my personal life."

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Saying, "Let's not read into it the wrong way when I say that I don't talk about my personal life ... but it is in no way to hide or deny who God made me," Smollett -- who plays Jamal Lyon, the singer-songwriter middle son of homophobic dad Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and mom Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) -- went on to say, "My mama knows. My mama likes me a lot. And, yes, I take her to 'The Sound of Music' sing-along every single year ... But, honestly, we're humans and we love and we do all that good stuff. So I'm honored for this opportunity, and I'm honored to be here with you."

Smollett's co-star Malik Yoba made headlines last week when he said during an interview with BlackFilm.com, "I know Jussie, he is gay."

In a statement to USA Today, Yoba denied that he had outed Smollett and was instead just referring to his co-star's TV character.