UPDATE (3/26/19), 11:35 AM EST: The charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett — over allegedly staging a racial attack against himself in Chicago on January 29 — have all been dropped, his Chicago-based attorney Ronald Safer confirms to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued the following statement (on March 26, 2019 at 1:15 PM EST) in wake of this development: “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.”
UPDATE: Terrence Howard’s bodyguard vehemently denied this report in an Instagram post on February 25. In a lengthy post, he wrote that the report, which claimed Howard got into a screaming match with Smollett on the set of Empire over his alleged attack, is a “non factual” story. Read the bodyguard’s full message, here.
ORIGINAL: After he was released from police custody in Chicago, Jussie Smollett, 36, returned to the Empire set on Thursday, February 21, where he was angrily confronted by his co-star Terrence Howard, 49, according to TMZ, which sites sources on set of the hit Fox show. Howard reportedly had a “complete meltdown” on the Chicago set after Smollett was arrested for allegedly staging a hate crime attack on himself on January 29. Howard, who reportedly did not believe Smollett’s story from the get-go, interrogated Smollett when they met on set that day, sources say. Things reportedly got so heated during the exchange, that at point, Howard began to scream at Smollett to reveal the truth about the alleged attack.
Howard was so upset that the sources claim he refused to come out of his trailer for most of the day when Smollett arrived back on set. After the reported altercation, Terrence was eventually nowhere to be found on set, sources tell TMZ. And, Howard wasn’t the only one upset that day. — Other members of the cast and crew reportedly agreed with Howard, despite Smollett’s reported apology to his Empire family.
When he returned to the set, TMZ previously reported that Smollett addressed the cast and crew with a heartfelt apology. “I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls,” Smollett allegedly said at the time. “I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
Nonetheless, whether the apology did occur or not, Smollett’s job couldn’t be saved. His role as Jamal was officially cut from the show’s final episodes of its fifth season later that day. Empire executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer released the following statement on February 22: “The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
Despite Howard’s reported confrontation with Smollett, he confused fans about where he stands on the issue, when he posted a video of Smollett to Instagram on February 24 — two days after the reported argument. “All your lil homies got you… We love the hell outta you,” Howard captioned a video of Smollett holding his son, Hero, while on a private plane together.
Howard also fired back at a fan who criticized him for supporting Smollett. “Sorry you feel that way but that’s the only Jussie I know,” he wrote on Instagram. “The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly. 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.”
Chicago police charged Smollett this week with filing a false report for allegedly staging a January 29 attack on himself, making it look like he was the victim of a hate crime. Smollett has denied the charge and was released on $100,000 bail. His next hearing is set for March 14.