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Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has given his first public interview since he was sentenced back in March for falsifying police reports. In an appearance on the “Sway in the Morning” program on SiriusXM, Smollett admitted that he “cringed” when he watched his infamous February 2019 interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America,” an interview which he now acknowledges had a “performative nature.”
“I didn’t wanna do an interview. You know what I’m saying? And I don’t wanna get too deep, you know, because I love and respect Robin Roberts… but I did not want to do that interview,” Smollett said. “ I hadn’t watched the interview at all until we were on trial and I had to watch it because they were trying to use the interview as evidence of lies or whatever. So, I had to watch it and I watched it and I was mortified…I cringed.”
However, he still insisted that “every single word that [he] said in that interview was the truth.”
Roberts interviewed Smollett back in February of 2019, a few weeks after he alleged that two white men had assaulted him on the streets of Chicago. At the time, Smollett said that the two men had hurled racist and homophobic epithets at him and yelled “This is MAGA country!” as they poured bleach on him and tied a noose around his neck.
However, the police investigation and the evidence submitted at trial demonstrated overwhelmingly that Smollett fabricated the incident. At sentencing, Cook County Judge James Linn called Smollett a “charlatan” and said that Smollett’s “very name has become an adverb for lying.” Linn sentenced Smollett to 150 days in jail, 30 months of probation, and nearly $150,000 in restitution and fines.
Now out of jail on appeal, Smollett framed the incident much differently to “Sway in the Morning,” presenting himself instead as the victim of racial and homophobic stereotyping.
“As an openly gay black man who leads with his blackness … I wanted to represent all of us that had been assaulted based on who we are … But I also didn’t wanna be associated with people who had been attacked. I’m genuinely sorry to say this, but this is the way that I felt, I don’t feel that way anymore, but I know that that’s the way that I felt. I felt like, I felt like I just became a [gay slur] that got his ass beat.”
Many in the entertainment industry have since turned their backs on Smollett, both publicly and privately, but Smollett claimed that Empire castmate Taraji P. Henson has remained loyal.
“It is unexplainable how much I love that woman. And she is literally one of my best friends in the whole world,” Smollett said of his former on-screen mom.
The two have since collaborated on a film adaptation of the 1994 best-selling book “B-Boy Blues,” a story which New York Daily News describes as an “LGBTQ+ romantic drama.”
Smollett, 40, told “Sway in the Morning” that he has served six and a half days in jail for the crime thus far.