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Jussie Smollett opens up about regrets, public ridicule and Taraji P. Henson in first post-prison interview

Karu F. Daniels, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

Jussie Smollett is setting the record straight.

The embattled “Empire” star is out of jail and on the rebound after the career-derailing scandal which resulted in him being sentenced to 150 days in prison on the five-felony-count disorderly conduct conviction in March.

During his first post-prison interview on SiriusXM’s “Sway in the Morning” Tuesday, Smollett discussed regret about the infamous “Good Morning America” exclusive, his time in jail, claims he staged the attack as a publicity stunt, and how Taraji P. Henson continued to support him.

The near hour-long interview with host Sway Calloway pales in comparison to the last major media opportunity on “Good Morning America” in February 2019 following the alleged incident, where he claimed to be victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago.

In hindsight, he said he regretted interviewing with Robin Roberts.

“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 revealed.

“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… every single word that I said in that interview was the truth, but there was a certain level of performative nature that came from it because I didn’t want to be there.”

The openly gay actor said his own internalized homophobia brought on shame and embarrassment.

“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.”

As far as the scuttlebutt that he staged a hate crime for attention, the former publicity agent slammed that notion.


“If I had done something like this, it would mean that I stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years … It would mean that I stuck my fist in the fears of the LGBTQ community, all over the world.”

The 40-year-old Santa Rosa, Calif., native told Calloway he spent 6½ days in jail.

Admitting he was in “the f—ing psych ward,” he wasn’t in a straitjacket.

“I was sleeping on like a restraint bed,” Smollett added. “I wasn’t restrained and I have to keep it real, everybody inside was very kind. And when I left, I thanked them all..”

However, it’s a whole other story for his so-called friends and close associates who spoke out against him.

“I do hold some people accountable for the things that they said, for the things that they did, for the ways that they reacted because half of those people should have picked up the f---ing phone and called me because they had my number, you know? And they didn’t,” he said.

One person who didn’t turn his back on him was Taraji P. Henson, the Golden Globe Award-winning actress who portrayed his mother on “Empire.” The two have maintained a tight connection throughout the scandal — even working together professionally on his latest endeavor, directing and producing a feature film adaptation of the 1994 best-selling novel “B-Boy Blues.”

“That is my heart. Taraji supported the film. Taraji gave me money for the film,” Smollett said. In return, he utilized her TPH scalp and hair care line in product placements throughout the LGBTQ+ romantic drama, currently streaming on BET+.

“It is unexplainable how much I love that woman. And she is literally one of my best friends in the whole world.”

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