Jussie Smollett talks gaining clarity from jail, his new film, and much more on SiriusXM's "Sway In The Morning".
Jussie Smollett recently sat down with SiriusXM's Sway Calloway to discuss his film "B-Boy Blues" on SiriusXM's "Sway In The Morning".
During the wide-ranging conversation, Jussie Smollett opened up about gaining clarity from jail, being grateful, and how his spirit is now.
Jussie Smollett also talking about his continued friendship with former co-star Taraji P. Henson, his family protecting him throughout scandal, and more.
Sway Calloway hosts SiriusXM's "Sway In The Morning" on Shade 45 weekdays at 8:00 am ET.
Jussie Smollett on how his spirit is right now (min 2:45)
Sway Calloway: How's your spirit?
Jussie Smollett: My spirit is so... in such a season of gratitude. Like my, my spirit is, I've never felt more, more clear, I've never felt more sober. I've never felt more, I hope people don't take that outta context, but I'm sure they will.... Yeah. But um, I've never felt healthier and more grateful and more, I've never felt more blessed than I feel now. So, my spirit is, you know, is really good. I'm still, you know, still dealing with things still, you know, having to, you know, I'm not shy to say that I am in therapy, as we all should be because a lot of stuff that happened over the last three years, obviously, but also just, you know, just life stuff. You gotta be able to, you gotta be able to train your mind and not just train your body, you know, to be healthy and to be beautiful. So, I'm really, really, I'm getting out of the idea of trying to convince or trying to hope that people see the truth of something. Or something like that. And I'm really just, I'm going where the love is and that's why I'm here. You won't see me everywhere. I'm not doing a lot of press. But it's like, I'm going where the love is and why shouldn't I, you know what I'm saying? Why should we subject ourselves to, to unnecessary pain or salaciousness or whatever. It's like, that's why I come home to family.
Jussie Smollett on being grateful (min 5:00)
Jussie Smollett: I'm so, it sounds so odd, but Lord knows if I could go back and, and never go through any of this and never have my family or my close people to me ever have to experience what we've experienced. Lord knows that I would make sure that that you know, happened, but, and that they, that we never went through what we've gone through. But there's a part of me that, one of my good friends said, 'you know, you may think now...' when you say this, probably in like April of 2019. He said, 'you know, you may look at everything now and think that this is bad, but at the end of the day, you needed to mow your lawn so you could see all the snakes in your grass.' And sometimes, sometimes we, and again, it goes back to what I was saying when I was on the phone with y'all about family is so important to me. So I'm always looking in every space that I'm in to create that sort of same feeling that I get when I'm around my family, that safety, that unapologetic love. And sometimes it can stab you in your foot. You know? But, I'm just so, I'm just, I say it often and I say it a lot and I'm just like, I think that it's best to, it's better to say thank you to God, the universe, the ancestors, your friends, your family too much than to not say it enough. So, and I know from the depths of my soul, the way that God has brought me through and continues to. You know, so I'm just, y'all will hear me say the words grateful a lot. And I really genuinely am.
Jussie Smollett on how he rectifies people who do not believe his story (min 7:00)
Sway Calloway: You went through a lot of public ridicule. From the same people that loved you and uplifted you or the same folks that did not believe you, you know, there were a lot of folks who just to this day does not believe your story. How do you rectify that?
Jussie Smollett: I don't, there's a part of me that, you know, when I strip my, when I strip my ego, when I strip my personal emotions about it and my personal situation, I'm, the way that it was served to everybody I absolutely understand why people felt betrayed. And I put that in my song Thank you God, where I was just like, I really overstand the reason why y'all felt betrayed. They had my own people, thoughts going off the wall that's right. From LD to Don, I still got love for y'all. Because whatever they thought they thought and whatever, the way that it was served, it was served. But that is also, I didn't know what was happening then. I didn't know how I, I didn't know how bad it was getting. And I also didn't think for whatever reason, I genuinely thought that people were gonna be like, 'there's no way that he did some bullshit like that.' I'm just like, 'y'all know me, like y'all know that....' And I'm thinking, oh, what people's history should mean something. So they, and it's very interesting when someone uses, when someone lies on you over and over, and then they pull and you know what is the lie, but then you're forced to acknowledge the truths around the matter as well and that's really painful as well. Cause it's easy to just be like, 'that's a bullshit lie I didn't do no fucking hoax, fuck that.' But then at the same time, then they bring out drug stuff. And then they bring, and then you're like, 'Ooh, I did do that...' And it's like, and you're sitting there and you're like, but this doesn't have anything to do with what y'all are saying that I did do that I didn't do. So it, it is what it is. I don't hold anybody.... that's not entirely true. I do hold some people accountable for the things that they said for the things that they did for the ways that they reacted. Because half of those people should have picked up the fucking phone and called me, because they had my number, you know, and they didn't. But I also understand that we sometimes operate off of fear and that when you are, when you're kind of, you know, the whole mission is to alienate you so that everybody so that you are such, you are so just like vibrating in the wrong way. And like all the shit around you is just wrong. That people just have to step back. But I don't mind, I don't hold the people to anything that step back I hold the people that went out there and said shit, I hold them to something. And not the people that don't know me. But the people that do know me, fuck outta here. Y'all know better than that. And y'all did that. That was some PR bullshit. And you know who you are and I will not name names, and I love everybody, but I don't like everybody.
Jussie Smollett on wishing he would have spoken out, not done his interview with Robin Roberts, and more (min 13)
Jussie Smollett: Do you understand the emotional, like discipline that it takes to, how many videos I have in my phone from February of 2019, where I'm just going off and I'm just like, 'this is bullshit and y'all know what this is. Why are y'all fucking falling for the banana and the tailpipe in this way. I know that it's like, why now? Why is this so easy to believe?' And, but then of course, then you send it to your people and they're like, 'don't, don't put that out. Don't you're too, you're too angry. You're too defensive. You're too this.' But looking back, there's a part of me that wishes that I had done, what I wanted to do of going out there. I didn't wanna do an interview. You know what I'm saying? And I don't wanna get too deep, you know, because I love and respect Robin Roberts, you know what I'm saying? But I did not want to do that interview. That interview wasn't for me, that was for my character.... Just meaning that God, how deep do I get, if I'm gonna get deep, I might as well get deep with my family. Yeah. I have to be very, very honest here in that I wanted to, I found myself, you know, I hadn't watched the interview at all. I hadn't watched the interview at all until we were on trial and I had to watch it because they were trying to use the interview as evidence of lies or whatever. So, I had to watch it and I watched it and I was mortified. I mean, I was mortified. I mean, I cringed at just the, every single word that I said in that interview was the truth, but there was a certain level of performative nature that came from it because I didn't want to be there. And I was so angry and so offended that I had to go on national television and explain something that happened to me. And it was so political, and it was all of those things. And I found myself dealing with my own internalized homophobia. As an openly gay black man who leads with his blackness, I found myself dealing with that. And I'm embarrassed. And I'm a little bit ashamed to say that, meaning that I wanted to, I wanted to represent all of us that had been assaulted based on who we are. But for the people that didn't have the platform that I had, I wanted to say all of the things that people should hear from people who have been through this. But I also didn't wanna be associated with people who had been attacked. I felt like somehow, like I want to, I want to play roles. I wanna play boxer. I wanna play, you know, superheroes and all that type of shit. And then I felt like I'm so, I'm genuinely sorry to say this, but this is the way that I felt, I don't feel that way anymore, but I know that that's the way that I felt, I felt like, I felt like I just became a faggot that got his ass beat. So, or at least I felt like that's what people saw me as. And so, I was trying so hard to like the posturing of, he hit me and then I hit his ass back and I was just like, 'oh my God, what are you doing? You look ridiculous.' But everything that I said was the God, to honest, honest to God truth. But it's just the way that it was. Yeah. I mean, I, again, I'm, I'm sorry to my people that I felt that way. But that is, that is a part of a bigger conversation that we should probably have at some point, about the internalized homophobia that we're kind of conditioned with from the moment that we get on this earth whether you end up being gay or not. And it's something that I feel like a lot of us fight with and grapple with. And in order to explain certain things and explain certain whys, you kind of have to be fully honest with yourself about all of that. And that's just me being honest. So, am I ashamed of that? That I felt that way. Absolutely. Do I feel like I'm, I'm better than anyone else that has been assaulted absolutely not, so completely not but at that time I was just so embarrassed that it happened. I did not want anybody. So that's why, when people were just like, 'oh, he, he did this so that he could, he did this so that he could get attention.' I'm just like, 'first of all, I've never been a person that looked for attention. But if I was like, I'm an actor, a director, a writer....' You know what I'm saying? Like quack, quack mother fuckers. If I were to do something, it would not be to look like a victim. It would be to look like, if anything someone's strong. And I found myself being like, 'yo, but I'm strong, but I fought back' and all of that type of stuff. And it was like, it actually doesn't make you more or less of a human being, regardless of what happened. And so we just didn't know what to expect. We didn't know what was coming. We didn't know who was gonna lie. We didn't, there was just nothing to point us to that until it happened. And we were just dumbfounded and looking back, there were so many things that we could have done to intercept it, but we just didn't know what was coming. So that's that.
Sway Calloway: And I, we going, we gonna move on. But you, you say something really interesting because I, I used to, I used to get on the radio. I, Heather will tell you I was perplexed of why so much attention is being paid. Let's, I minimize it to this actor. You're more than that, but why, you know, I'm just, you know, why is, I used say the whole world is coming down on this guy on this actor. When we got so much other things we could be concerned about.
Jussie Smollett: You know what bothers me more than, it's interesting. What bothers me more than is someone that says 'that mother fucker is guilty. He's a liar. He, he did this.' What bothers me more than that? Those people are relevant to me at this point. Fuck them. They gonna believe what they're gonna believe. What bothers me more are the people that are saying that will say something like, 'well, even if he did do it, xyz...' I think what you have to realize is, is that for someone like me, that represented his entire, my entire career. My, but my, but more importantly, my entire life, along with my family represented social justice, represented equity and equality and all of these types of things. And we, we fighters and we're, we fight with love so deeply, and this is what we preach, because it's what we believe.
Jussie Smollett on why he didn't need a rise in his career (min 20:20)
Jussie Smollett: If I had done something like this, it would mean that I stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years. We're not even talking about in Africa. Cause that's an old, 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. I'm not that mother fucker, never have been. Don't need to be, didn't need to have a, some sort of rise in his career. I was on the up and up. I was coming from New York from doing a table read for my dream role in a Broadway show. I had just optioned the rights to the autobiography, the authorized autobiography of Alvin Ailey. I had just all of these things that I was creating, there would be no reason for me to do some dumb corny shit like that. But people are looking to believe what they believe. And what I have to do is I have to keep working. And 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 able to pull my life from under me like a rug.
Jussie Smollett on how he made it through being in jail (min 21:50)
Sway Calloway: Your stint behind bars. How did you make it through that? What was your saving grace?
Jussie Smollett: God. And my family. I fasted, I was there for six and a half days. I fasted for six and a half days. My lawyer, shout out to Nenye [Uche], but he was lying when he said that I was fasting for lent. I wasn't fasting for lent, I was fasting because that's what we do in my family. Like we fast for, for clarity for, 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. And it was almost like when they told me that I was getting out, what I was doing is I was fasting until I found out whether or not I was gonna be in there for those five and a half months. I just wanted to know what my life was about to look like. So, I was fasting, getting, and I had been prepping, you know, my, my family, most wonderful human beings. I live and die for them....So being, being behind bars, I fasted for six and a half days and there was a part where they told me that I was getting out. I, Lord knows I wanted to get out. I'm in the fucking psych ward on, you know and...
Sway Calloway: Did they have you in a jacket?
Jussie Smollett: No, no, no, no. They didn't have me in a jacket, but they had me, I was sleeping on a, on like a, like a restraint bed. I wasn't restrained and I have to keep it real, everybody, you know, was inside was very kind. And when I left, I thanked them all. I said, 'I don't know what y'all think either way, but the fact that you didn't let me know what you think either way, and you just showed me respect. I'm grateful for.' But yeah, I was there in six and a half days and there was a part of me when I was coming out. When they told me that I was coming out, I was so grateful and so glad to get out. But there was a part of me that was like, I don't want to lose how I feel right now. Like, I don't want to lose. I don't want to lose the clarity. I don't want to go back out there and pick up this and pick up this, pick up this, you know what I'm saying? And somehow forget how I feel right now, because right now I am as grounded in me as possible. And it's just, there's something about being in there and having no choice, but to surrender, surrender, not to the system, not to a judge or a bunch of old white men, ironically explaining to you about the history of hate crimes. And, and lynching. And you're sitting there and being like, 'what, who the fuck are you?' And, but you're surrendering to yourself and you're surrendering to, you're just left there with you, your thoughts and these walls.
Jussie Smollett on his family protecting him by taking his phone away (min 26:30)
Sway Calloway: You said, you understand, you didn't understand then what was happening now, you have a better understanding of what happened to you. What do you believe it is?
Jussie Smollett: What do you mean?
Sway Calloway: You said when the, when you, you couldn't see how big this would become.
Jussie Smollett: Because I was shut off from, when I say I was shut off from the world. I was shut off from the world. I mean like my family, my family took my phone. I did not have my phone. They took, I was not allowed to get on social media.
Sway Calloway: So, you couldn't see the swell that was happening, the scrutiny...
Jussie Smollett: No. They protected me from it. In a really beautiful way. And then I, and then probably about a year later, I, I was somewhere with my family, for my older sister Jazz's birthday. And I just, for the first time decided to Google myself.
Sway Calloway: Oh gosh.
Jussie Smollett: Worst idea ever. Yeah.... I really saw what it was and I, and it was so painful. Cause I was like, 'Ooh, he said that about me. Oh my God. Oh, she said that. What?'
Jussie Smollett on his friendship with Taraji P. Henson (min 44:40)
Jussie Smollett: I was just with Taraji the day before yesterday in Atlanta. That is my heart. My heart, we had the best time we went to brunch with the, some of the, we went to brunch with Tim and, uh, who plays Mitchell and Landon who plays well.... Taraji supported the film, you know, Taraji gave, I mean, I can say this she's in the thank yous. Taraji gave me, gave me money for the film. And so I put in, I put in her TPH project, product, so you'll see like Mitchell washing Raheim's hair with the TPH shampoo or him spraying the, the curl moisturizer on him. She is, oh, I love that woman. It is unexplainable how much I love that woman. And she is literally one of my best friends in the whole world. And I love her and I'm always just, I just, I just I love her. And yes, I talk to her. I talk to her at, I mean, we talk all the time. That's my girl.
Jussie Smollett On Friendship with Taraji P. Henson, "B-Boy Blues" Film, and Gaining Clarity From Jail