Weeks after all charges were dropped against Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging his own assault, the actor's Empire co-stars released a new letter of support for him. With Smollett's future on the series remaining unclear, many series regulars are calling for Fox to keep him on the show should it receive its likely renewal for Season 6. Describing Smollett as "innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped," the Empire cast is hoping everyone can put the unfortunate incident behind them. Signed by Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker, the letter details many of Smollett's contributions to charity and community service before insisting that his Jamal character should return next season.
"Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service.
Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion.
It's clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust.
It is why now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our "Jamal" back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will.
That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It's our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should."
This confusing ordeal first began in late January, when Jussie Smollett reported he had been the subject of an apparent hate crime. According to the actor, two men had attacked him while spouting homophobic and racial slurs. Additionally, the men were reported to have thrown bleach on Smollett and even placed a rope around his neck. As an investigation commenced, police began to doubt the story after identifying the alleged assailants as two brothers who had worked with Smollett on Empire. With the brothers fully cooperating, police claim they'd uncovered evidence to suggest Smollett himself staged the entire assault, perhaps in an effort to boost his pay or status on the TV series.
Although the case against Smollett seemed strong, all charges against him were subsequently dropped in March. However, for the most part, public perception still does not seem to be on his side. Smollett has since been mocked over the scandal on Saturday Night Live, and has been at the receiving end of many jokes from late night TV comedians. The Chicago Police Department is also suing Smollett for the incident, looking to recoup money spent on investigating what they say was a false police report. Those who know Smollett best seem to be believing - or at least forgiving - the Empire actor,
In the wake of the scandal, there was certainly a good chance Smollett was going to see himself fired. He had his character's screen time trimmed from the remaining episodes for Season 5, though Fox never announced he was officially leaving the show. Having the full support from the cast is definitely a strong endorsement, but how Smollett's presence will affect viewership will ultimately be what's most important to Fox. As the show has not even been officially renewed yet, there's still time for the network to make a decision one way or the other, and we'll all just have to see what happens.
With other celebrities like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman facing very stiff prison sentences for unrelated crimes, Smollett is considerably lucky to be able to walk away from the charges against him scot free. Unfortunately for him, there are still a lot of people very unhappy about this decision, and it could end up costing him his Empire gig, even with the support of his co-stars. This information comes to us from Deadline.