Three days after Jussie Smollet pleaded not guilty to all 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, Taraji P. Henson revealed how she and her ‘Empire’ castmates are holding up.
UPDATE (3/27/19), 9:30 PM EST: The FBI is now reportedly reviewing “the circumstances” surrounding “the dismissal” of Jussie Smollett’s 16 felony disorderly conduct charges on March 26, which two unnamed law enforcement officials confirmed to ABC7. HollywoodLife has reached out to the FBI for comment.
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.”
ORIGINAL: Taraji P. Henson, 48, broke her silence on how Jussie Smollett’s legal woes have affected his Empire castmates, just days after the actor, 36, pleaded not guilty to accusations that he allegedly filed a false police report and orchestrated a hate crime against himself on March 14. “You have to stay strong, stay positive, full of hope,” said Taraji, who plays Cookie Lyon on Empire, while speaking to Extra at the premiere of her new film, The Best of Enemies, in New York City on March 17. She then assured that her castmates are also staying “strong” after the Cook County grand jury handed Jussie 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct on March 7. You can watch the interview below.
Taraji voiced her horror on Instagram when news first broke that Jussie had allegedly been attacked by two men on Jan. 29. They also reportedly yelled racist and homophobic slurs at the actor who identifies as gay, according to the alleged police report. “I wish what happened to my baby was just one big bad joke but it wasn’t and we all feel his pain right now. @jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING HIS PAIN BECAUSE IT IS OUR PAIN!!!” Jussie’s co-star wrote on Instagram on Jan. 30, before the Chicago police had accused Jussie of staging his attack.
However, Terrence Howard was the first to come forward from the Empire cast to speak on Jussie’s arrest. Terrence even defended his on-screen son in his Instagram post shared on Feb. 23. “All your lil homies got you…We love the hell outta you,” Terrence wrote, alongside a video of Jussie holding his television dad’s real life son, Qirin Love Howard.
It remains unclear whether or not Jussie will get more screen time with his Empire castmates. The show’s executive producers — Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer — revealed that Jussie’s character, Jamal, was cut from the final two episodes of Season 5. However, they didn’t say if Jussie would be cut from the Fox show altogether in the official statement, issued on Feb. 22.
Showrunner Brett Mahoney gave fans an update on Jussie’s future with Empire on March 13. “It’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie,” he told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published on March 13, and also repeated Taraji’s sentiments about staying “strong” in the wake of the scandal. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster. You have someone in your family who’s going through this, while at the same time, we’re shooting the final episodes of the season, which are also just heightened emotionally,” he admitted to the outlet. “So it was a lot to deal with and a lot to go through, but we’re really just focused on finishing strong.”