Jussie Smollett's Empire co-star, Terrence Howard, is defending Smollett in the wake of the backlash against him - and is noticeably one of the few cast members speaking up for Smollett. It's been distressing to follow the story of the alleged hate crime against Empire star Smollett, and the subsequent allegations that Smollett may have been involved in staging the crime in order to get more pay or a better quality role on the show.
The story dates back to early February, when reports emerged that Smollett had reportedly been attacked in the early morning hours in Chicago, Illinois. Smollett had apparently been walking back to his hotel in the city when two men came up to him, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured a substance on him, and allegedly put a noose around his neck. Smollett then went to the hospital for treatment. In the weeks since that initial news, there's been confusion around what really happened to Smollett. The Chicago Police Department has come forward with claims put together through interviews with Smollett and his alleged attackers, brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, that Smollett thought of the hate crime and orchestrated it so that he could get better pay on Empire. It's still unclear exactly what has happened, even though Smollett is feeling repercussions personally and professionally already.
Over the weekend, TV Line reported that Howard went to his Instagram and posted a message of support for Smollett, sharing a video of Smollett on what appears to be a private plane with Howard and a baby. Howard captioned the video, "All your lil homies got you," and going on to say, "We love the hell outta you." The post received criticism from some of Howard's followers, with one person commenting that Howard was supporting an alleged "lying felon" to which Howard offered a lengthy response in defense of his co-star.
"The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly," Howard told the commenter. "His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide. Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I’ve called my son for five years. It’s God’s job to judge and it’s ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved. There’s nothing more harmful than a fake friend!"
Smollett has faced major repercussions for what may be a falsified hate crime. Currently, he's been charged by the Chicago PD with felony criminal charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false report. If convicted on either charge, Smollett could be incarcerated. Although they initially supported him in the immediate wake of his attack, FOX has removed Smollett from the final episodes of season 5 of Empire. Should the show get renewed, TV Line reports that the character Smollett plays on the show could be recast entirely. Smollett initially gave interviews and spoke up about the alleged attack, but has since stayed silent as questions around the truth of what really happened mount.
It's unclear what will happen to Smollett, especially since we still don't have a clear picture of what truly happened that night nor do we know (or have the ability to know) if Smollett is guilty or innocent. What's known is that this incident and the fallout from it will undoubtedly have a severe effect on Smollett's career and could change the course of the conversation around how hate crime victims are treated in America today.
Source: TV Line