Anyone who was watching the news in 2019 probably remembers the case of Jussie Smollett and his allegations that he was attacked by supporters of then President Donald Trump. At the time Smollett was a well known actor thanks to his role on the hit TV show Empire. Much has happened since then, but fans and people who were interested in the incident are wondering what the once promising actor is up to now.
His Career Before the Hoax
Despite being most known for the show Empire, Smollett had a number of movie and tv roles before starring in the hit series. He was an extra in the films Mo Better Blues and New Jack City before landing acting roles in films such as The Mighty Ducks. Smollett would disappear from acting for a few years before appearing in shows starting in the early 2010’s such as The Mindy Project and The Skinny.
He would land his leading role in Empire in 2014 opposite Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.
The Hate Crime Hoax
In January of 2019 Smollett filed a police report with Cook County stating that he was attacked outside his home and that the attackers beat him while shouting racial slurs. He later claimed that the attackers were wearing clothing with slogans of then president Donald Trump and claimed that the attack was both a racist and homophobic attack against him.
Following roughly a month-long investigation, the report was found to be false and Smollett was brought up on charges.
Aftermath of the Hoax
Beginning in February 2019, Smollett would begin a legal battle with Cook County. Initially after the investigation, Smollett was charged with filing a false police report. These charges would eventually be dropped and Smollett would be released from jail. However in April of 2019 the city of Chicago would file a civil suit against Smollett to recover expenses involved with the investigation of his supposed hate crime. Smollett would dispute the civil case, citing mass public ridicule and harm in light of the hoax.
At the same time that Smollett was being sued in civil court, allegations of leniency and favoritism were launched against Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx. Foxx called for a special independent investigation into the case. Roughly a year later the special investigation would conclude in February of 2020. Upon the conclusion of this new special investigation, Smollett would then be indicted again, this time on 6 charges of disorderly conduct stemming from false police reports made during the hoax incident. These charges would come from a Cook county grand jury. Smollett attempted to fight the charges citing “double jeopardy” but this was overturned by a judge.
Ultimately, Smollett was convicted of 5 out of the 6 charges and sentenced to 150 days in jail, 2 and ½ years of probation as well as restitution to the city of Chicago and fines. Smollett’s legal team filed a notice to appeal immediately following the conviction. As of March, 2022, Smollett was released on a $150, 000 personal recognizance bond pending the outcome of his appeal.
Post Release Work and Career
One of Smollett’s most notable appearances was on the radio morning show Sway in the Morning immediately following his release. During this interview, Smollett continued to confess his innocence, even going so far as to say “as a black gay man in America I could not have done this”.
Smollett would go on to make an appearance at the 2022 BET awards. The appearances appears to have been Smollett’s attempt to hype his own career and promote a comeback of sorts with him talking about different projects he is involved in, including his directorial debut in the film B Boy Blues an adaptation of the book by James Earl Hardy.
Smollett’s appearance, in which he talked about his music career and about being a role model to the younger generation amongst the media outlets that were present, was met with widespread criticism and a generally negative reception amongst social media. In fact, many viewers of the BET Awards were shocked that he would make a public appearance considering his fall from grace.
Roughly a month after his release from jail, Smollett also released a song whose lyrics seem to be aimed at his controversy and proclaim his innocence. Smollett released a snippet from the song on Instagram and claims that proceeds from the song will benefit numerous LGBTQ+ charities in the Chicago area.
Will He Return to Acting?
Smollett is still awaiting the outcome of his appeal and appears to have no plans to act in any upcoming projects. If his appeal is denied, Smollett would have to serve the remainder of his 150 day sentence, of which he previously only served 6 days.
It appears, at least in the near future, that Hollywood has no interest in the fallen actor given the scope of the scandal he caused. His most recent project B Boy Blues was released solely on BET+, a streaming service and there have been no updates or reports of the actor having any more projects underway or future prospects from Hollywood.
Even should Smollett win his appeal, it will likely take some time before anyone in Hollywood will take a chance on the disgraced actor once again.