Empire's Terrence Howard Speaks Out After Jussie Smollett Attack

Smollett was hospitalized after an assault in Chicago

By Lena Grossman Jan 30, 2019 4:18 PMTags
Terrence HowardJohn Lamparski/Getty Images

Terrence Howard is speaking out about the violent attack on his Empire co-star Jussie Smollett.

During an interview with Good Morning America, the actor said the show's cast and crew learned about the attack while they were on the set.

"Jaws dropped to the ground," he said. "And then when we learned that there had been letters that had been sent to Fox as threats about the potential of something like this, then we became much more frightened."

The Lucious Lyon star said he heard Smollett was "getting better." And even though Howard said Smollett was "angry," he said he will forgive his attackers.

 "Jussie's anger will dissipate, and he will forgive these people for what they did," Howard said. "But he won't, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance."

He also spoke highly of his co-star.

"Jussie's the one that starts singing when everybody's in a bad mood," he added. "He's the one that cheers everybody up. He's the one that does all the Instagrams if he catches you sleeping....Today, no one was caught sleeping. No one even took time to close their eyes and nap. They were all in shock that our family—you know, the Fox family, the Empire family, the Lyon family—you know, were attacked by a bunch of hyenas today." 

Stars Call for Justice as Jussie Smollett Recovers From Homophobic, Racist Attack

Smollett was hospitalized on Tuesday morning in Chicago after two people approached him and began yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him. The assailants then battered his face and poured an unknown chemical on him. At one point, one of the attackers put a rope around his neck. The two unknown people fled the scene and Smollett was taken to Northwestern Hospital. He has not yet released a statement about the attack.

Chicago Police Department Chief Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told E! News that it was a "possible racially-charged assault and battery." Guglielmi added, "Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline."

20th Century FOX Television and FOX Entertainment, who makes Empire, spoke out about the attack, too. "We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night," they said in a statement sent to E! News. "We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own."

A number of celebrities have voiced their support for Smollett and condemned the vicious attack on the 35-year-old actor. 

Empire creator Lee Daniels recorded an emotional video on Instagram where he welled up a bit while encouraging his friend to stay strong. "You didn't deserve to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called 'die f––––t, n––––r,' or whatever they said to you. You are better than that," Daniels said in his Instagram video. "We are better than that. America is better than that. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are, because it shows that we are united."

Daniels then told him to "keep your head up."

Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Andy Cohen, Ellen DeGeneres and many others took to Twitter and Instagram to pay their support to Smollett. "We ALL have a responsibility to rise up against the ignorance and hate out there," Shonda Rhimes tweeted. "If you know who did this to @JussieSmollett, REPORT THEM TO THE POLICE."

Empire writer Danny Strong said he was "deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks."