The 49-year-old Empire star spoke on Wednesday’s Good Morning America about how the cast of the Fox show reacted to the news of the alleged attack on their co-star.
"Jaws dropped to the ground, and then when we learned that there had been letters that had been sent to Fox as threats about the potential of something like this, then we became much more frightened,” Howard said of reports.
He went on to call for forgiveness for the alleged attackers, saying, "I heard he’s getting better. He’s angry, but I know Jussie. Jussie’s anger will dissipate, and he will forgive these people for what they did. But he won’t, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance.”
On Tuesday, Chicago Police Department spokesperson, Anthony Guglielmi , sent out a statement to ET regarding the alleged incident: "Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire. Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com."
A source tells ET that Smollett was walking when two guys started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at theTVstar. Smollett was then attacked by the men and repeatedly hit. Smollett then tried to protect himself and at one point the men poured a substance on him believed to be bleach and one of the guys put a rope around his neck, continues the source. Smollett self-transported himself to the hospital. After some time, the men fled the scene and Jussie transported himself to the hospital.
On GMA, Howard spoke fondly of his co-star, who officially came out in 2015 after playing Howard's openly gay son, Jamal Lyon, on Empire.
"Jussie’s the one that starts singing when everybody’s in a bad mood. He’s the one that cheers everybody up,” he said. "He’s the one that does all the Instagrams if he catches you sleeping. Today no one was caught sleeping. And no one even took time to close their eyes and nap."
Howard, who portrays Lucious Lyon on Empire, went on to note that those who are close to Smollett have struggled with the news, saying, “They were all in shock that our family, the Fox family, the Empire family, the Lyon family was attacked by a bunch of hyenas today.”