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Jussie Smollett Says He Is 'In A Season Of Gratitude,' Insists He’s Still Innocent

“If I had done something like this it would mean that I had stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years," Jussie Smollett said in a new interview. "It would mean that I stuck my fist in the fears of the LGBTQ community all over the world."

By Jill Sederstrom
Jussie Smollett visits the SiriusXM Studios

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett says he is “in a season of gratitude,” as he continues to proclaim his innocence and insists that he is not “a piece of s---.”

Smollett opened about his conviction for lying to police, the “clarity” he found in jail and his hopes for the future in a new interview on Sway Calloway’s Sirius XM show “Sway in the Morning.”

“I’ve never felt healthier and more grateful and I’ve never felt more blessed than I feel now,” Smollett said of his current state of mind.

Smollett was released from a Chicago jail in March after spending six and a half days behind bars for what police concluded was a staged January 2019 attack.

Smollett — an openly gay Black man —  had told the police he was attacked on the Chicago streets by two men who poured a chemical substance on him, tied a noose around his neck and shouted racial and homophobic slurs.  

But Chicago Police would later determine that evidence suggested that Smollett had fabricated the attack to gain attention and promote his career. The actor was ultimately convicted of five counts of felony disorderly conduct, according to NPR.

After serving his time behind bars, Smollett continues to proclaim his innocence.

“If I had done this, I’d be a piece of s---,” told Calloway in the lengthy interview. “That’s not really questionable.”

He went on to insist he would never have carried out the hoax as a proud gay, Black man who had devoted his career to social justice and equity.

“If I had done something like this it would mean that I had stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years. We’re not even talking about in Africa because that’s an even deeper, larger conversation. It would mean that I stuck my fist in the fears of the LGBTQ community all over the world,” he said. “I’m not that motherf---er. Never have been, don’t need to be.”

Smollett challenged former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s assertion that he “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career” saying that at the time of incident he had been having a “rise in his career” and had just finished a table read for a dream role in a Broadway show.

Smollett, who starred in the popular Fox television show “Empire” at the time, also said he had just optioned the rights to the autobiography of famed Black choreographer Alvin Ailey.

“All of these things that I was creating, there would be no reason to do some dumb, corny s--t like that,” he said.

While he has continued to proclaim his innocence, Smollett acknowledged during the interview that “people are going to believe what they’re going to believe" and said he could “absolutely understand” how some people had felt betrayed based on the way the incident was portrayed in the media and by law enforcement.

“I am getting out of the idea of trying to convince or trying to hope that people see the truth of something,” he said, adding “I’m going where the love is.”

Smollett also addressed the six and a half days he spent in jail, crediting “God and my family” for helping him get through experience.

While behind bars, Smollett fasted. It was a decision he said that was not related to Lent, as his attorney had first announced, but was a way for him to try to achieve “clarity.”

“That’s what we do in my family, we fast for clarity,” he said. “I have never in my life, at least in my adult life, been as clear of mind as I was for those six and a half days.”

Smollett spent the time in the jail’s psych ward where he said he had to sleep on a restraint bed, although he wasn’t restrained.

“Everybody that was inside was very kind and when I left, I thanked them all,” he said. “I said ‘I don’t know what y’all think, but the fact that you didn’t let me know what you think either way and you just showed me respect, I am grateful for.’”

He now says he believes the prison system “needs to be dismantled.”

“That place I not meant for redemption,” he said. “That place is not meant to make you come out better than you went in.”

With the jail time behind him, Smollett said he’s now looking toward the future. The 40-year-old recently made his directorial debut in “B-Boy Blues,” a film now streaming on BET+, according to Variety.

“What I know for sure is, every single thing that I auditioned for during that period, I lost. They took it from me. But every single thing that I created, myself, is being created. Never again will anybody be ever to pull my life from under me like a rug,” he said.

Smollett began his acting career as a child in 1991 with a role in the tv movie “A Little Piece of Heaven.” He went on to act in the movie “The Mighty Ducks,” and television series including “On Our Own,” “Revenge” and “Underground,” according to IMDB.

He played the role of Jamal Lyon in “Empire,” but the show finished without his character after the scandal in 2019.