The cast of Empire is standing by Jussie Smollet in the wake of accusations that he falsely reported being the victim of a hate crime.
Charges filed against him for allegedly doing so were dropped by Chicago prosecutors earlier this month. And while he avoided criminal consequences, the City of Chicago is currently suing him for the cost of the investigation. He has also sustained severe damage to his reputation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Nicole Ari Parker and other actors featured on the hit Fox series have written a letter praising Smollett’s conduct and character. It strongly requests he be allowed to resume his role on the show in its (yet to be announced) sixth season.
‘Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire,” began the letter.
It went on to address the murkiness surrounding Smollett’s case and labeled him as “innocent.”
“We understand the past months have been difficult to process—sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal,” it continued. “Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character.”
The letter labeled Smollett as “kind,” “compassionate” and “filled with integrity.”
“He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed,” the letter continued.
The group also cast doubt on allegations that Smollet orchestrated the attack as a publicity stunt by reminding the public of his history of supporting The Black AIDS Institute, the Trevor Project, the Rainbow Push Coalition, Chicago Public Schools and the City Lights Orchestra.
“This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion. This is the Jussie we know,” they wrote. “It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust.”
They concluded by appealing not only to the network, but the fans as well.
“A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life,” the letter said. “We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our ‘Jamal’ back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will.”
On Wednesday night’s episode, Smollett’s Jamal wed his fiancé in a historic move for network television—the first Black gay wedding ever televised.