Empire's Jussie Smollett Talks Trying To Make A Hollywood Comeback At The BET Awards

jussie smollett on empire
(Image credit: Fox)

Fox’s hit musical drama, Empire, did a lot to cement the careers of stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, but it also brought several new or lesser known talents to the forefront of Hollywood and pop culture. This was the case for Jussie Smollett, who played middle son Jamal Lyon on the series. But, his rise to fame was cut short after Smollett was suspected of lying to police about being the victim of a hate crime in Chicago. He was eventually found guilty of those charges, but after Smollett was released from jail on a suspended sentence pending his appeal, he opened up about trying to make a comeback while at the BET Awards. 

What Did Jussie Smollett Say About His Hollywood Comeback?

This June 26 saw some of Hollywood’s best and brightest step out for the BET Awards, and this included Empire’s Jussie Smollett. The actor and musician was present after his feature directorial debut, B-Boy Blues, premiered on BET+ earlier in the month. While talking with Entertainment Tonight before the event, Smollett was asked about “working your way back into Hollywood,” and said:

You know, I never thought of myself as working my way back. It’s wonderful. This has always been the plan, to expand my empire, so to speak. To expand the level of what I want to do...to be able to usher in a new generation of artists and actors and this amazing talent that’s out there and has so much to tell, that’s what is feeding me.

The actor was able to direct his movie while still embroiled in legal trouble over his reported hate crime. In late January of 2019, Smollett alleged that he was attacked by two men on the street as he was walking to get food at 2 a.m., saying they punched him in the face, wrapped a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. While he quickly received support from a number of other celebrities (including those working with him on Empire, like Howard) and fans, it wasn’t long before Smollett spoke out about feeling like he was being treated as a criminal while police investigated.

Less than a month after Smollett reported the attack, he was charged by the Chicago Police Department for disorderly conduct due to filing a false report. Smollett maintained that he was innocent (and still does), and charges were dropped in late March of 2019 after the star forfeited his $10,000 bond payment and did community service. A few days later, however, the city of Chicago sued Smollett on six counts of disorderly conduct on suspicion of making false reports, with him being dropped from Empire in early June and then found guilty on five of those counts in late 2021.

Smollett had a number of fans, friends, family members, and co-stars like Taraji P. Henson who stepped up to support him while in the midst of his legal troubles, and he also had some lovely words when asked what he’d tell those who stuck by him, and said:

I tell them, with all my heart, just thank you. They never waivered, they never straddled the fence, and for that I am forever grateful. I don't take that lightly for a moment. My family, my friends, the true ones, if I never get to hug you in person, know that there's a hug in my heart that I genuinely mean.

Jussie Smollett also noted that he has new music set to come along soon, as he awaits word on his appeal. He served six days of his 150-day sentence, but also had 30 months of probation, and had to pay a $25,000 fine, and restitution to the Chicago police of $120,106, so, hopefully, Smollett’s case will be able to come to a close before too much longer.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.