He's won four NAACP Image Awards for his acting and singing

7 things to know about Jussie Smollett

For the last several years, Jussie Smollett has gained notoriety for his role on the hit TV series “Empire.” However, he’s recently been thrust into the spotlight for his legal troubles. 

» RELATED: ‘He called wolf’: Social media reacts to Jussie Smollett reportedly faking attack, threatening letter

From television series and movies to music and even cookbooks, Smollett has been a part of Hollywood for much of his life. But in February 2019, the future of his career became uncertain when he was charged with filing a false police report after alleging he was the victim of a hate crime. The charges were later dropped. 

Want to learn more about him? Here’s what you should know. 

He was a child actor.

Smollett gravitated to the arts at a young age. His first film was the 1991 NBC TV movie entitled “A Little Piece of Heaven.” He also starred in the 1992 flick “Mighty Ducks,” where he played Terry Hall. 

In 1994, the ABC show “On Our Own” premiered, starring Smollett and his five brothers and sisters, including actress Jurnee Smollett, who played siblings left orphaned by a tragic accident.  

He has ties to Angela Davis.

Smollett is biracial. His father, Joel Smollett, was white and died of cancer in 2015. His mother, Janet Smollett, is black. She grew up during the civil rights era and marched alongside prominent figures, including members of the Black Panther Party and Angela Davis. 

In fact, his mom and Davis are good friends, and Smollett has spent a lot of time with the influencer throughout his life. 

The audition process for “Empire” was challenging. 

When he found out about “Empire” and the role of Jamal Lyon, a gay musician, he sent an Instagram message to the show’s creator Lee Daniels. 

Daniels remembered him during his audition and called him a “smart kitten.” However, Daniels wasn’t initially convinced Smollett was a good fit. He auditioned seven times before finally booking the gig.

» RELATED: 5 things about “Empire”

He loves to cook. 

In 2017, he collaborated with his siblings for a cooking show on the Food Network called “Smollett Eats,” where the family celebrated cookouts, pop-up dinners and other events. 

In 2018, the Smollett family released a cookbook entitled “The Family Table,” which includes more than 130 recipes that have significant value to them. 

He’s passionate about philanthropy. 

Smollett’s debut studio album, “Sum Of My Music,” was released in March 2018, and he began touring to support the project in April 2018. 

Along with the album and tour announcements, he also revealed that a portion of the concert’s proceeds would go to The Black Aids Institute and Flint Kids.

He’s an award-winning actor and singer. 

Throughout his career, he’s been nominated for several awards. In 2016, he won four NAACP Image Awards, including one for outstanding new artist and outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his role on “Empire.”

He’s faced legal troubles.

In January 2019, Smollett, who is openly gay, alleged he was attacked in Chicago by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. He also said the attackers tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. 

Police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime but later said it was a hoax. They believe the actor paid two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in hopes of promoting his career. 

Officers later arrested Smollett on several counts of disorderly conduct in falsifying a police report, but all charges were dropped after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office reviewed the facts and circumstances of the case, including the star’s good standing and community service. 

The state made a legal decision to seal the records, and Smollett’s record was wiped clean.

Listen to the accessAtlanta podcast on iTunes to hear Smollett chat more about his career. Subscribe here

 

» RELATED: Judge sets $100K bail for Jussie Smollett, accused of faking hate crime to boost career

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