Jussie Smollett is back in the spotlight amid an ongoing scandal that has derailed his acting career.
On Friday, Nov. 19, the 39-year-old actor attended the New York City premiere of his movie B-Boy Blues, his film directorial debut. This marked the first red carpet event for the former Empire actor since January 2019, when he reported to authorities that he was the victim of an alleged racist, homophobic hate crime in Chicago. He was later indicted for making false police reports and is set to stand trial over the matter later this month.
At the time, he told authorities that two masked men threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, as well as a statement of support for then-President Donald Trump. A month later, amid growing skepticism about his account, police arrested the actor and accused him of paying two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
"Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a news conference in February 2019.
A grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report after allegedly lying to authorities about being the victim of an alleged hate crime. The actor pleaded not guilty. In March 2019, local prosecutors dropped all charges against him.
Meanwhile, the actor continued to be heavily criticized on social media, was mocked by Chris Rock at the NAACP Image Awards, and was dropped from Empire, which ended its six-season run in 2020. Smollett has not acted in any projects in three years.
In February 2020, following an investigation by a special prosecutor, Smollett was charged in a felony indictment with six counts of disorderly conduct, stemming from making four separate false reports to Chicago police related to being the victim of a hate crime in the alleged 2019 incident. He again pleaded not guilty. Jury selection for his trial is due to begin in Chicago on Nov. 29.
"They won't let this go," Smollett told journalist Marc Lamont Hill in an Instagram chat in September 2020. "It doesn't matter. There is an example being made. And the sad part is that there's an example being made of someone that did not do what they're being accused of."
Since his first indictment, while keeping out of the celebrity spotlight, Smollett has remained active on social media and has been seen in public a few times. In October, he and his sister and Lovecraft Country star Jurnee Smollett were spotted donating items to the Jenesse Center in Los Angeles, a nonprofit domestic violence intervention and prevention group.
"It's been f--king painful," the actress told The Hollywood Reporter two months earlier, "one of the most painful things my family's ever experienced — to love someone as much as we love my brother, and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating. I was already in a very dark space for a number of reasons, and I've tried to not let it make me pessimistic. But everyone who knows me knows that I love my brother and I believe my brother."