'Empire' Star Taraji P. Henson Talks Jussie Smollett Case Impact on Series

Taraji P. Henson spoke out about the lasting effects of the Jussie Smollett scandal on Empire.

The actress, who plays Cookie in the popular Fox drama series, opened up about the difficult times on set following Smollett's alleged hate crime and subsequent legal woes.

"We'll never be the same. No one will ever be the same. Forever changed. And it's sad," Henson told Variety in an interview conducted prior to the charges against Smollett being dropped.

While not being specific on what she thought of Smollett's involvement in the crimes he was accused of, Henson said she always stayed true to herself as a leader on the set of Empire in the aftermath of the scandal.

"You've just got to be strong because the devil wants you weak, and the devil wants to catch you in a vulnerable moment and make you believe things that aren't true," Henson told the magazine. "I just stay strong. I know what side I'm on: I'm on faith's side. I've got God, I know I'm a good person, so I just stay in that lane because powers that be and other sources from the outside can make you think things, but when you know what you know, you stay there right where you know what you know. I just hold onto my truth."

Henson stayed mostly silent on Smollett's legal troubles until all the charges were dropped last week. After news broke of the development in the case, Henson shared a message of support for her on-screen son.

"When I know someone, there's nothing you can say to make me flip on them, and that's what we miss in this world. We need people that stand by us. Whatever happened to that? Why are we so easy to believe strangers over people we know?" Henson told USA Today.

"I'm not going to jump on clickbait just because someone says something derogatory about a person I know and love. I'm not easily swayed like that. Those little clickbait [reports] weren't enough to deter me from his immaculate track record. I know the type of activism this young man does in his community, I know that he's a giver – he's not an attention-seeker," she added.

Smollett is set to miss the final two episodes of Empire Season 5 after producers chose to write his character, Jamal Lyon, off the show to avoid disruptions to production.

With his charges dropped, it remains to be seen if the actor will return for the show's potential sixth season.


Empire airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.