recently traveled to Flint, Michigan, to make a $10,000 donation toward relief efforts combating the city's harrowing water crisis.
ET caught up with the 32-year-old actor
at the NAACP Image Awards gala dinner on Thursday, and the Empire
star explained why the tragedy moved him to visit the city and donate.
"It was important for me to be on the ground and to just see the people and talk to the people," Smollett shared. "I feel like I spend so many hours on Google and watching the news and it wasn't enough."
Smollett also recalled what he saw during his visit to the troubled town, where residents have been facing dangerous levels of lead in the city's tap water. The crisis is so severe, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in January. Flint's mayor, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency back in December.
"[It was interesting] just seeing the people and hearing their stories about how some neighborhoods are worse than others," Smollett explained. "It was really appalling but it was inspiring to see the way the people pulled together from all different cultures, all different races and genders and ages, and really are pulling together as a community to fix the problem."
Smollett said that his time in Flint isn't over. In fact, he plans on returning to the embattled city later this month to help "try to clean up the water and the government."