Jussie Smollett’s return to acting ‘up in the air’, rep says

By Omar Jimenez and Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

(CNN) — Actor Jussie Smollett is headed to jail for lying to police and orchestrating a hate crime hoax, but with his legal proceedings largely over, the questions now turn to the former ‘Empire’ star’s future in Hollywood.

On any potential return to play, a representative for the Smollett family told CNN, “he would clearly love to” but also that right now “everything is up in the air.”

Hollywood is no stranger to redeeming talented men and women who make mistakes, whether it’s an offense that lands them in jail on Twitter or in jail. The question is whether Smollett will cross the invisible bar set for him to return to screens big and small or end up on a list of uncastable actors.

There are indications that at least some notable Hollywood figures haven’t strayed away from Smollett, who made his industry debut at age 12 in a short-lived ABC sitcom in which he starred in the alongside his siblings.

At a hearing Thursday, in which Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail, Smollett’s team presented the judge with letters of support from actor Samuel L. Jackson and his wife LaTanya, among others .

In their letter, the couple argued that Smollett should be spared jail time and that the 39-year-old “has already suffered many punishments as this situation has destroyed his current career and tarnished his reputation”.

Smollett’s sister, Jurnee Smollett, arguably the most acclaimed of the family’s six artist siblings, also remains well-connected and regarded in the industry. Even as the family navigated Jussie Smollett’s legal troubles, she was a cast member of HBO’s horror drama “Lovecraft Country,” which debuted in 2020. (CNN, like HBO, is owned by WarnerMedia.)

It was during the press tour for that series that the actress, known for her past roles on shows like WGN’s “Underground” and HBO’s “True Blood,” publicly opened up about her brother’s scandal. in detail and reiterated his support.

Smollett was convicted in December of five counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports of what he called an anti-gay and anti-black hate crime. The actor, who is black and gay, told Chicago police that in January 2019, two unknown individuals attacked him, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, poured bleach on him and wrapped a noose around their necks.

Chicago police investigated the case as a possible hate crime and at the time, celebrities and politicians rushed to publicly defend it.

That support wavered as the twists and turns of the incident unfolded, particularly when investigators quickly determined the actor masterminded the incident and paid two brothers he knew from the Fox drama “Empire.” to stage the incident for publicity purposes.

On Thursday, the silence from some of Smollett’s early defenders was deafening.

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown was an exception. Among those who expressed it “lovefor the Smollett family in 2019, Brown shared his thoughts again on Friday, tweeting, “The way the judge reprimanded Jussie, you’d think he murdered 2 people or used a gun instead of a taser a black man at a traffic stop.”

Smollett’s attorneys have indicated they intend to appeal.

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