You probably know him from the hit American music drama TV series “Empire” as Jamal Lyon, the middle son of hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon (Terence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson). But here are some more facts to know about 36-year-old Justin ‘Jussie’ Smollett.
“Empire” was not his first gig. He was a child actor. His first film was the 1991 NBC TV movie A Little Piece of Heaven. He also starred in the 1992 flick Mighty Ducks, where he played Terry Hall, and 1994 ABC show “On Our Own”.
He is the third of six children. His younger sister, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, played the main role in Tyler Perry’s movie Temptation. She also played Jess Merriweather on “Friday Night Lights” and Nicole Wright on “True Blood”.
In 2017, all siblings collaborated for a cooking show on the Food Network called “Smollett Eats” where they celebrated cookouts, pop-up dinners and other events. Last year, the family released a cookbook entitled The Family Table, which includes more than 130 recipes that have significant value to them.
Smollett’s mother Janet Smollett is an activist. She grew up during the civil rights era and marched alongside prominent figures, including political activist Angela Davis.
Jussie auditioned for his role on “Empire” seven times before getting the gig. Prior to that, he had sent a direct message to the show’s creator Lee Daniels, saying he was interested in the role.
During a guest appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, Smollett came out publicly as a gay man.
He chose not to speak about his personal life during the main interview for the daytime talk show, but asked Ellen to film a special sit-down chat with him backstage shortly afterwards where he spoke openly about his sexuality during the interview, saying, "It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet."
Jussie was arrested in Chicago on Thursday after being charged with filing a false police report. Smollett had said he was subjected to a homophobic and racist physical attack by two men in January. He said he had gone out to buy food late at night when two white men hurled racial and homophobic insults at him, punched him, poured a chemical substance over him and put a rope around his neck.
His siblings have since defended him amidst these claims, blasting the media as ‘irresponsible’ on their social media accounts.
Jocqui, his brother, posted an Instagram photo that read: "This is the media, an irresponsible media. It will make the criminal look like he's the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal. If you aren't careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."
Smollett had earlier said that he had been "forever changed" by the incident.