Jussie Smollett's Sister Jurnee Says His Scandal Has Been 'F**king Painful'

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Jussie Smollett and Jurnee Smollett attend the 2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on March 1, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence

Jurnee Smollett is addressing her brother Jussie Smollett's 2019 controversy for the first time. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 33-year-old actress talks about how her family -- which includes her and Jussie's other four siblings -- have been affected after he was accused of staging a hate crime against himself in Chicago.

In February, 38-year-old Jussie pleaded not guilty after he was charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a hate crime. Chicago police claim that Smollett paid two brothers to stage an anti-gay and racist attack against him on Jan. 29, 2019.

In her THR interview, Jurnee maintains her brother's innocence.

"It's been f**king painful, one of the most painful things my family's ever experienced -- to love someone as much as we love my brother, and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating," she says. "I was already in a very dark space for a number of reasons, and I've tried to not let it make me pessimistic. But everyone who knows me knows that I love my brother and I believe my brother."

Jurnee says her support for her brother hasn't negatively affected her Hollywood career.

"We are blessed to have a community of people who know him, and know that he wouldn't do this," she says.

"I mean, f**k, man, I look at him sometimes and I'm like, 'He's so strong,'" she continues.

As for what the Empire star has been up to, she shares that "he's staying creative, as creatives do," and "singing, writing, working on music."

As for Jurnee, she's busy with her own career and stars in HBO's highly anticipated Lovecraft Country,  a sci-fi horror series that revisits the racist terrors of Jim Crow America, which drops Aug. 16. The timeliness of the project isn't lost on Jurnee.

"We're telling the story of heroes that go on a quest to disrupt white supremacy, and it's maddening that in the year 2020 it's still relevant," she says.

Jurnee is proud of the project, and also says that after past negative experiences on set, she is no longer afraid to have her needs known.

"And I don't apologize," she says. "I'll be like, 'Listen, this fake-a** sexual harassment meeting that we're having, I'm going to raise my hand now and let you guys know that the standards that they're setting are bare minimum."

"I don't know that I can confidently say that I worked on one job prior to Lovecraft -- from the time I was 12 on -- where I hadn't been sexually harassed, whether it was by an AD, a co-star, director, producer," she says.

But she makes it known that times have changed for her and other powerful women in the business.

"We're no longer asking for a seat at the table," she says. "We're building our own motherf**king table."

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