After being arrested and charged for allegedly orchestrating an attack that he claimed was a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett has found himself in recent days with few people in his corner, save for one prominent supporter: his Empire co-star Terrance Howard.
In an Instagram video shared Sunday, Howard calls back on a lighter time in their lives, when the two actors were traveling together with Howard’s family. In the video, Smollett is seen playing with Howard’s son, Hero, as they sit aboard a private plane. He tickles the young baby, who squeals and giggles with delight as he nuzzles into Smollett’s chest.
“Aw, such a sweet baby,” Smollett says as he smiles to the camera.
In the caption for the post, Howard, who plays Smollett’s TV dad, extends his love and support. “All your lil homies got you... We love the hell outta you,” he wrote with a heart emoji.
It’s been a whirlwind last couple of weeks for those following Smollett’s story after the actor and singer went from being the supposed victim of a brutal attack, to the suspected mastermind behind it. Smollett, who is black and gay, first came forward in late January with an elaborate story detailing how two men attacked him while using racial and homophobic slurs. He claims they tied a noose around his neck before pouring a substance he thought was bleach on him and bolting from the scene.
Police initially treated the incident as a potential hate crime and brought two men into custody for questioning. But soon a flurry of news reports citing unnamed sources cast doubt on Smollett’s story, suggesting that he was somehow the one pulling the strings. Smollett defended himself on national television, delivering a play-by-play of his alleged attack, while adding that he was “pissed off” by critics who refused to believe his story. But within days, Smollett became the focus of the investigation.
Police on Thursday arrested Smollett and charged him for allegedly filing a false police report. Authorities say he paid two men $3,500 to fake the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Police also suspect that he sent himself a threatening letter prior to the attack and was disappointed with the lack of response.
Smollett, however, continues to maintain his innocence. He’s since been written off of Empire and producers say he won’t appear again for the rest of the season. In a message to his colleagues on the cast after he was released from bail, Smollett reportedly begged them for support: “I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
Howard has been one of the few prominent figures to continue to defend Smollett. In the comment section of his Instagram post Sunday, Howard called out critics who pressed him to denounce Smollett, writing: “Sorry you feel that way but that’s the only Jussie I know. The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly. His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide. Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I’ve called my son for five years. It’s God’s job to judge and it’s ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved.”