Taraji P. Henson says ‘Empire’ cast is ‘strong’ despite Jussie Smollett controversy

Despite actor Jussie Smollett's troubles, the show is going on on the set of 'Empire,' his co-star says

Director Lee Daniels, actress Taraji P. Henson and actor Jussie Smollett of Fox TV’s Empire pose at the Fox Winter TCA All-Star Party at the Langham Huntington Hotel on January 17, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Embattled Empire actor Jusslie Smollett might be preparing a defense against charges that he falsified details of an alleged racist and homophobic attack against him, but costar Taraji P. Henson says the cast is remaining resilient amid the tumult.

“You have to stay strong, stay positive, full of hope,” Henson, 48, told Extra on Sunday at the premiere of her new movie, The Best of Enemies.

She also said her fellow cast members on the show on Fox are “strong.”

READ MORE: Black leaders call for Jussie Smollett’s NAACP Image Award nom to be rescinded

Henson made the comments amid speculation as to whether the serial drama about a music label would be renewed. On the show created by Lee Daniels, Henson plays Cookie Lyon, mother to Smollett’s Jamal Lyon.

In the middle of public speculation as to the future of the show, Smollett has been cut from the last two episodes of this season, the show’s fifth, and no decision has been made as of yet about his future, showrunner Brett Mahoney told Entertainment Weekly.

“You have someone in your family who’s going through this, while at the same time, we’re shooting the final episodes of the season, which are also just heightened emotionally,” Mahoney said. “So it was a lot to deal with and a lot to go through, but we’re really just focused on finishing strong.”

READ MORE: Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty on 16 counts of disorderly conduct stemming from alleged hate crime hoax

Mahoney also told the news organization it was too soon to speculate what the show might be like without Smollett.

In one of the latest twists in the case involving Smollett, 36, a Black leadership network known as Project 21 has asked the NAACP to rescind the actor’s NAACP Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

The 50th NAACP Image Awards are scheduled to take place March 30th.

“Everyone has a reason to be disappointed with Jussie Smollett right now, and these accumulated reasons justify the NAACP taking swift and appropriate action to remove him from consideration for its Image Award,” Council Nedd II, the organization’s co chair, said in a statement.

The NAACP has not yet formally responded.

READ MORE: ‘Empire’ ratings took a dip amid Jussie Smollett’s alleged hate crime scandal