Jussie Smollett’s television father has come out in support of the embattled actor on Instagram. Empire star Terrence Howard posted a photo of Smollett playing with a delighted baby, captioned, “All your lil homies got you… We love the hell outta you ♥️.”
Smollett’s Jamal Lyon character has been dropped from the final episodes of Empire for this year, and his future participation is clouded by charges that he faked his own hate crime assault. He could face incarceration of up to three years if convicted of the felony criminal charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report.
Howard’s online support was criticized by some, according to reports. When one commenter said Howard was supporting a “lying felon,” Howard issued a lengthy response.
“The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly,” Howard said in reply. “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. There’s nothing more harmful than a real friend!”
Howard is not alone in defending his friend. Smollett’s Empire co-star Gabourey Sidibe expressed her support in an Instagram post made a day before his arrest. It has since been deleted. The Sidibe post said, “I know him, I believe him, I stand with him.”
Smollett has been on Empire since its debut. The show is wrapping production on its fifth season.